When I was a little girl, I loved Winnie the Pooh. He was the character from the A.A. Milne books that I most identified with and consequently, had a small, stuffed doll in his likeness. His simplicity and unfailing kindness always cheered me. I cherished my Pooh bear and every summer when my sister and I went to sleepaway camp, I'd bring him with me. For years, my closest friend at Echo Camp for Girls was Darcy and she favored Piglet. So, you can imagine that we paraded around pretending to be and/or carrying our totems as we went on overnight trips or talked late into the nights.
In my twenties, I read The Tao of Pooh which brought me back to that wise and silly bear and gave me an even deeper understanding and appreciation for his timeless lessons. So I was surprised recently when I stumbled upon this A. A. Milne quotation, "Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” I never really thought all that much about Piglet but after reading that, I realized he could not be underestimated. After all, many of us may think we have small hearts. Piglet can serve as our inspiration in knowing that size is irrelevant when it comes to gratitude.
Seven days ago, I accepted my friend Gretchen's challenge to think of 5 things I am grateful for each day for a week with no repeats. Everyday I dutifully made my list, shared it on Facebook and Twitter, invited my friends to join. What was fascinating for me in this week was to realize just how much I am grateful for. The first "obvious" ones were the biggies that I think about a lot like my family, my health, and my career. But as I started to dig in, I noticed that everything from the shoes I wear to the face cream I apply I am grateful for. Then I also realized the gratitude I have for nature- for the sunsets, the rain, and the incredible array of animals in our world like Orca and Humpback whales, sea turtles, and Sandhill cranes.
In the mornings I experienced how, especially if I was tired or dragging, simply naming the 5 things I was grateful for changed my focus. Very quickly I'd be transported from feeling bad, thinking about lack or negativity, to an uplifting freer place. My breaths would deepen and I'd look around with smiling eyes, immediately reminded of all the good surrounding me in this moment.
Practicing gratitude is something found not just in children's books but in many spiritual practices. In an interview on UC Berkeley's Greater Good website, Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, author and leader in the gratitude movement discusses its power, not only to the individual practicing it but to society and ultimately the world at large. He says, "...grateful individuals live in a way that leads to the kind of society human beings long for. In many parts of the world society is sick. Keywords of the diagnosis are: Exploitation, oppression, and violence. Grateful living is a remedy against all three of these symptoms. Exploitation springs from greed and a sense of scarcity. Grateful living makes us aware that there is enough for all. Thus, it leads to a sense of sufficiency and a joyful willingness to share with others. not only to the individual practicing gratitude but to society and ultimately the world at large..."*
Sometimes it's easy to read quotations from great thinkers like Brother David, Maya Angelou or Eckhart Tolle and feel intimidated, like they can do this because they are so much more advanced. This is when I remember Winnie the Pooh, the most simple of bears and his friend Piglet who is a rather timid little fellow, always afraid but wanting to be brave. If he can acknowledge that his heart is small but can hold a lot of gratitude, then so can you and so can I. It's easy to underestimate the capacity of the heart but it will grow. I promise.
With this, I invite you today to undertake Gretchen's gratitude challenge. Do it for 1 week, and see how you feel. Feel your heart and experience how it will grow and expand. Watch how your mouth turns to smile more readily and see how you feel lighter. Before you know it, you may even find yourself humming while you hunt for acorns.