Gratitude again, this time with a few ideas.
Because again, it's easy to be grateful for the good stuff.
Or is it?
Yes, and. And: it's also easy for me, anyway, to miss the good stuff. To take it for granted - to take people for granted - and to forget that we're just here for a minute.
And to forget that because of that, now is the best time to say thank you. Today is the best day to be grateful. And out loud is the best way to do it.
Plus there's good research on gratitude. And the bottom line is, it's good for us.
I learned some new gratitude strategies and am trying them out. Sharing those in today's podcast. Enjoy.
Hi everyone, it’s Judi Cohen and this is Wake Up Call #326 on November 18th.
Last week was about gratitude for the hard stuff: being grateful for the difficulties we encounter and seeing them as opportunities to deepen our practice. In my experience this isn’t the easiest instruction but it’s been very helpful, and I hope for you, too.
For today’s Wake Up Call I want to talk about gratitude habits, or strategies.
There’s been quite a bit of research on gratitude. For example, people who practice various forms of gratitude are happier and more successful. They’re also more generous – they apparently donate up to 20% more of their money and time than those who don’t practice gratitude. They’re more bonded with their local community (and maybe that includes their law firms, bar sections, faculty, and fellow students – why not?). Grateful people experience 10% fewer illnesses and have blood pressure that’s 12% lower than people who don’t practice gratitude. Their income is about 7% higher. They’re more well-liked and have more satisfying relationships. And apparently there’s research that shows that people who regularly practice gratitude live up to seven years longer than those who don’t.
Who knows? I’m always interested in the science but with all of the practices that train the mind and heart, like lovingkindness, compassion, patience…and gratitude, the questions for me are always, am I happier when I practice? Am I kinder to others? And am I able to do a little more good in the world? With all of them, and especially with gratitude, I’d definitely say, yes.
When I think about gratitude in the law, though, the first thing that comes to mind for me is how overworked, under-resourced, and overwhelmed all the lawyers and law professors and law students I know are. I checked the registration for my mindfulness class at Berkeley yesterday and it’s full with a full waitlist. And a colleague of mine, Emily Bruce, a wonderful teacher, is offering a similar class next semester at Berkeley, so there are two mindfulness classes being offered in the same semester, and it’s also full with a nearly full waitlist. And then I got a note from a student on my waitlist, telling me how difficult things are and asking what they can do if they don’t get in. It’s heartbreaking. We need more mindfulness teachers in the profession. (Direct message me by the way if you’re interested and willing – next year’s Mindfulness in Law Teacher Training is now completely virtual and we still have spaces. And the profession needs you!) So anyway, all of this begs the question, what is there to be grateful for in the law, when things are so difficult?
I want to propose that actually at a time like this, gratitude might be more important than ever. Here are five gratitude habits or strategies that I really like for all of us who work in the law. I’m calling them the 5 Habits of Highly Grateful Lawyers:
One, slow down. If I don’t do that, I end up missing the good stuff. Maybe use STOP, Stop, Take a breath, Observe, Proceed. Or develop a habit of taking a breath between one thing and then next, and noticing what’s there. I’m at Tahoe and the sunrise this morning was breathtaking. Our dog and grand-dog are snuggled up on the bed. There’s a tangle of blankets on the couch from my partner’s nap yesterday. I checked my email and there was only one! When I slow down and notice those things, I can remember to be grateful for the sunrise, for having both dogs with us, for my partner, for the ease of not having too much correspondence to deal with this morning.
Two, remember we’re just here for a moment. Just like each breath, and each thought, we, too, are just here for a moment and then pass away. And so is everyone else. We’re all in this brief flash of consciousness together, and then it will be gone. So even if it’s difficult, let’s not miss it, and let’s not miss appreciating it, or finding something to appreciate about it, and about each other. Let’s not miss being grateful for each other. It’s an easier way to go through a stressful day.
Three, be humble about privilege and relative wealth. As legal professionals, and no doubt each of us has multiple, intersecting, identities, but as legal professionals, whether by virtue of education, job status, salary or draw, or simply location in society’s hierarchy, we do have privilege. And probably enough wealth to be relatively comfortable. It’s an important part of gratitude practice for me, anyway, to remember that I’m not entitled to that privilege or wealth. That really, it’s a gift: I was born into circumstances – some easy, some difficult – and in a location, and with the intelligence and drive, to get where I am. And so whatever I’ve accomplished or contributed, while I’ve worked very hard for it, is also something I feel humbled by, and very grateful for. And maybe you do as well.
Four, practice mental subtraction. Take a moment each day to think of the humans and other beings you love, and the humans who take care of you at work, and your mentors and family and friends. Then imagine your life without them – without any one of them, really. And then remind yourself that right now they’re still here, if only for a moment, and notice if that helps gratitude to come alive even more.
And five, practice gratitude out loud. Gratitude isn’t a solitary practice. Or it is, but it only really works if we take it off our cushion and express it. Definitely it can take the form of a silent prayer when gratitude is arising because of a sunrise, but even then it’s good to share. And with other humans, be grateful out loud: say thank you a lot, with joy. And be specific: appreciate people’s good intentions, their labor, and the benefit you’ve received. Make it your practice to really see everyone who offers you support, acknowledge their offering, and appreciate the difference they’ve made in your life, however small or fleeting.
Let’s sit, and let’s practice that last one for a few minutes right now.
I want to dedicate this Wake Up Call to Mary deCsepel Radcliffe, my first mother-in-law and my daughter’s beloved grandma, who died yesterday at the age of 95. May her memory be for a blessing.