Week 1 — Gratitude as the Memory of the Heart

Getting in touch with the memories of your heart:

When Oprah attended a Tony Robbins seminar in 2011, she says, he led an exercise that brought her to tears and reawakened memories she hadn’t thought about for 20 years.  As we begin this course I’ve chosen, via Oprah’s YouTube clip, to let Tony lead us in this exercise.  Hopefullly you are alone in the room and can fully enter into the exercise.  If not, you might want to save it until you can be alone and really enter into it.  Tony calls the exercise the Emotional Flood, an exercise where we flood ourselves with positive memories, memories for which we are truly grateful.  Let yourself really enter into the video clip, don’t just “Look at it.”  Allow yourself to “FEEL IT” by participating fully.

Why we need to focus on Gratitude?

I offer this course because I personally always need a pep talk on Gratitude. So as I talk to you I am also talking to myself.  So often in my past if I received 200 glowing evaluations and one bad, I’d focus on the bad and that’s what I’d keep remembering.  I’m not alone in this.   Newer research tells us the brain has evolved a “negativity bias” that is like “Velcro for bad experiences” but “Teflon for positive ones”, tilting the mind toward feelings of anxiety, mistrust, and inadequacy.  (Source:  Rick Hanson, PhD)  Developing an attitude of gratitude is a way to trick” the neural machinery of memory to weave positive experiences into the brain and the self more deeply. So I try to practice gratitude at all times because it helps me to remember the other 200 positive evaluations and cherish each of them as the truth of my life.  Gratitude has been for me what Jean-Baptise Massieu has called “the memory of our heart.”  Geprge Simmel goes a step further and says “Gratitude is the moral memory of humankind.”   When we focus on gratitude and let that be our memory the results include greater happiness, a deeper peace, abundant resilience, more energy and a depth in relationships.  I know that sounds too good to be true but by Week 4,  if you follow the class and the exercises and read about the research, I believe you will agree that it is true.

What is Gratitude?

According to Robert A. Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude,  gratitude is our ability to affirm goodness and recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside ourselves.   (We’ll hear more from him as we look at the research.) Brother David Steindl-Rast, the world’s leading spiritual expert on gratitude, uses different terms for gratitude.  (We’ll hear more from him as we look at gratitude as prayer.)  Brother David sees two parts  or two phases to the process of gratitude:  gratefulness and thanksgiving.  Gratefulness he sees as those moments in which gratitude wells up in our hearts and we experience it first hand as if something were filling up within us, filling with joy, but we haven’t yet articulated it.   Gratefulness is like a vessel that is still inarticulate until it overflows; it is like the bowl of a fountain when it fills up, and it’s very quiet, and still, and then when it overflows, it starts to make noise, and it sparkles, and it ripples down.  When it makes noise, when gratefulness is articulated, then it becomes thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving , according to Brother David, comes to a point where the heart overflows and we sing, and we thank somebody and we write it down because we want to remember it forever.  When these two things happen(gratefulness and thanksgiving) that is Gratitude.  That’s when the real joy comes; the joy that transforms us.  It is articulating our gratefulness that brings the real joy.
But in our society, just when we’re filled with “gratefulness” and ready to flow over into “Thanksgiving” we hear an advertisement or someone telling us there’s a new and improved something and your neighbor probably has this new and improved one and so we feel deflated and we don’t want to articulate it; we don’t express our gratitude.  Or perhaps just when we’re ready to overflow we let doubt enter into us and we say that person really didn’t mean that complement or that person’s motives are tainted and we choose not to believe in their goodness.  So instead of overflowing, we make the bowl bigger, and bigger, and bigger.  But it never overflows; it never gives us the joy that comes from our sharing, from our gratefulness.  Without that we never reach that deep meaning, that special memory, in our life.  The joy is missing for us, the joy that comes from remembering, from sharing.
Bother David’s writings suggest  that we need to teach ourselves to intervene, to become articulate, to remember, to share.  To do this we need to practice gratitude to the fullest, to let ourselves overflow and be thankful so that we experience the true joy of gratitude.  We have to teach ourselves how to listen, really listen, and behold what is right there in front of us.  We have to teach ourselves how to   “practice this gratefulness”   And, he says there is a very simple kind of methodology to it: stop, look, go. Most of us are caught up in schedules, and deadlines, and rushing around. And so the first thing is that we have to stop, because otherwise we are not really coming into this present moment at all. And we can’t even appreciate the opportunity that is given to us because we rush by and don’t even notice it, so stopping is the first thing. But that doesn’t have to be long, And if we really see what the opportunity is, we must, of course, not stop there, but we must do something with it. Go, avail yourself of that opportunity. And if you do that, if you try practicing that, at this moment, tonight, we would already be happier people, because it has an immediate feedback of joy, a split second is enough to stop. And then you look. You ask yourself:  “What is the opportunity of this given moment?” Only this moment, the unique opportunity this moment gives? And that is where this beholding comes in.  That is the moment when you are able to see the gift and you are able to say THANK YOU.
Listen to Brother David tell us about his method for developing gratitude:  STOP, Look, Go

Stop, Look, Go – A Framework for Gratitude

Brother David offers a process to help us remember to be grateful:  Stop, Look, Go.

  • Stop – take a moment or put up stop signs around the house as a reminder to express gratitude. — I use what I call a a gratitude stone.  It’s an ordinary stone that I keep in my pocket.  When I put my hand in my pocket, it reminds me to look for things for which I’m grateful and then to express gratitude.
  • Look – be present and aware of the moment; that is essential. See, smell and experience what is going on.  Take in all that is there.  You want it to be ingrained in your memory.  If I’m not noticing anything, I always ask God “what am I missing?” and before you know it something comes into my mine for which I’m very grateful or I see something that I didn’t notice a few minutes ago.  Try it you’ll like it!  But really take the time (even just 30 seconds) to really look and feel your gratefulness
  • Go – take action — Express gratitude or share your gratefulness with others.  — If there’s someone right next to you, share it right away, so that you can share the joy of articulating your gratefulness.  If no one is there remember it for your gratitude journal that day.  If the gratitude involves a person who you were reminded of — call them or write them or make some contact.  If they are deceased then journal about them that evening in your gratitude journal.  If gratitude is the memory of the heart.  You can choose to make nice memories every day!

These are simple steps but during this week if you focus on them you will notice a difference in your life.

Some optional homework to consider for an Attitude of Gratitude

(I know I can only cover so much in a session before I overwhelm or bore you so I put little practices or segments into the week.  They are important because they are all a part of helping you develop that Attitude of Gratitude.  But there is nothing magical about the sequencing.  Life may make it impossible to do all of them or one may really appeal to you and the others not touch you at all so just let happen what happens.  It is an offering and that’s all.)

Day 1 of week 1

If you don’t already have a gratitude journal — create or buy one.  This will be your lifeline.  All the research suggests that writing down just 3 things every day for which you’re grateful can transform your life.  Check this link to see the benefits of a gratitude journal and some specifics on how to begin one It is a short and sweet article from the Huffington Post but it is powerful and detailed enough to motivate you.

(LINK:   gratitude journal)

Day 2 of week 1

Talk to someone (family, friends, co-workers) about the things for which you are grateful.  We often do something like this at Thanksgiving but gratitude shouldn’t be limited to one holiday.  (Obviously continue your Gratitude Journal)

Day 3 of week 1

Listen to this TED Talk by Brother David Steindl-Rast; it only takes 15 minutes.  Spend some time thinking about it and perhaps even journaling about it..  It is solidly packed and I know it has moved many hearts toward gratitude.  Open your heart to the possibility that you are willing to make gratitude become a habit and maybe even a life long commitment. Brother David makes it simple.  (Continue your Gratitude Journal)

Day 4 of week 1

“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today; have you used one to say Thank You” (Dr. William Arthur Ward) .   Here is a  habit I have tried to develop over the past 20 years.  I don’t know who introduced it to me but I am grateful for whoever that was.  As soon as I get out of bed in the morning, as I place each foot on the ground, I say the two syllables “Thank You”.  It is a simple gesture but always sets me off on the right path for my journey that day.  If this wouldn’t help you then think of something  else that you would want to develop as a “one second” moment of gratitude to your Creator.  Also at some point today allow yourself time to sit in stillness and remember all that has been given to you by your Creator who loves you extravagantly.  (Don’t forget your gratitude journal)

Day 5 of week 1

Here is a link to a poem by Mary Oliver that says it all:  The Messenger by Mary Oliver  I would invite you to sit with it.  Read it through a few times and allow your heart to swell with gratitude the way she did.  You might even want to try your own hand at a poem.  If you do, please share it with us, we would be so grateful. (Write in your gratitude journal)

Day 6 of week 2

Here is a simple closing prayer to the week.  It is some good quotes on gratitude arranged in the beauty of nature.

I’ll connect with you next Wednesday.  I hope this was helpful in some small way.

31 Responses to Week 1 — Gratitude as the Memory of the Heart

  1. Margaret X February 1, 2017 at 5:23 am #

    For you and your insight and sharing…I AM MOST GRATEFUL….

  2. Sarah Riley February 1, 2017 at 7:50 am #

    What a great way to start February! I look forward to the rest of the week (trying to save some of the material for each day). Thank you Sr. Julia!

  3. Pat Kane February 1, 2017 at 9:00 am #

    Thank you, Julie. I am grateful for you and your gift of being willing to share yourself.

  4. Peg February 1, 2017 at 9:15 am #

    Beautiful! Thank you, Sr. Julie and all who put this program together. I am grateful to Sr. Maureen for introducing me to it.

  5. Sister Mary Ann McCarthy February 1, 2017 at 10:14 am #

    I am grateful for the wonderful material you have shared with us, Julie!

  6. Hele February 1, 2017 at 10:47 am #

    Starting a Gratitude Journal now. The first line will be that I am deeply grateful Sr. Julia is doing this for all of us. I joyfully thank her. And I thank God for these moments of time to experience the course.

  7. Michele O'Brien February 1, 2017 at 1:54 pm #

    The memory of the heart exercise was most powerful for me. I recalled memories of my youth with my Dad which are very fond memories. I hope to practice the Stop, Look, Go exercise.
    Thank you Julie for this program.

  8. Barb Lucas February 1, 2017 at 4:27 pm #

    Julie, this is wonderful! thank you so so much for offering this and I look forward to more
    on of this On Line as I can’t always attend your days/weekends at the Spiritual Center.
    I identify with what you said about one negative evauation… Years ago I experienced the
    same at a Parent-Teacher Meeting. Two parents not satisfied with my teaching and all
    the rest were grateful. I found a book written in the 80’s FEELING GOOD by Dr. David
    Burns and it really helped me. I also Googled and found him on a utube in case anyone
    would be interested. Again, thanks and I look forward to continuing .

    Feeling good | David Burns | TEDxReno – YouTube

    Video for Feeling Good book 17:57


    Sep 5, 2014 – Uploaded by TEDx Talks
    His best-selling book,Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, has sold over 4 million copies in the United …

  9. Sharon Previtera February 1, 2017 at 6:50 pm #

    This is a wonderful beginning to the course! Thank you, Sr. Julia, for this undertaking and for opening it to so many, at your expense. I can tell this will be a blessing, not only for us but hopefully to those we encounter each day.

  10. Jean McNeil February 1, 2017 at 7:08 pm #

    Thank you Sr Julie.

  11. Sr. Patticia Wickenheiser February 1, 2017 at 8:17 pm #

    A blessing to end the day. Looking forward to what blessings will open to me tomorrow!


  12. Sr. Rose MaryEve Holter February 2, 2017 at 2:16 am #

    Thanh you for this beautiful wisdom teaching! It may be 2 in the morning here but it is a gratitude moment which provides the deep stillness for resting in Holy Wisdom. Thank you for calling us to deep reflection on gratitude – a Heart Changer that may be a life-line of hope in this very painful moment of time. May the power gift of hope bring healing to our wounded hearts and souls!

    • Sr. Rose MaryEve Holter February 2, 2017 at 2:22 am #

      May gratitude be the doorway not only to this hope but inner peace! Have a great journey, everyone !

  13. Patrice Feeney February 2, 2017 at 8:28 am #

    Thanks Julie! So inspiring!

  14. Dianne February 2, 2017 at 10:23 am #

    A new day,.
    Stopping to notice the many blessings!

  15. Cathy Weaver February 2, 2017 at 5:58 pm #

    Thank you for the thoughtful and thought-full reflection. Looking forward to future prayer, thinking and thanking!

  16. Rose Dvorak February 4, 2017 at 11:33 am #

    Gratefulness touches the heart in ways nothing else can. Gratefulness helps us to go outside of ourselves and give thanks for what is not in our power to do. Thank you for the links to various sites. Inspirational and healing. Sop, Look, Go– a pause that connects. THANK YOU for listening to God.

  17. Victoria February 5, 2017 at 10:33 am #

    Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the pilot of your class.
    I had the most profound experience of gratitude in my life recently when I gave birth to my son – never have I felt so loved and blessed by God. I am looking forward to increasing gratitude practices as a form of worship (with a side benefit of increasing my well-being), and the suggested exercises here (especially emotion flooding and gratitude journal) will be helpful with my goal. So, thank you!

    • Sr. Julia Keegan February 5, 2017 at 11:21 am #

      The birth of a son is clearly a seminal gratitude experience. Congratulations Victoria! Many blessings and thanks for sharing your experience and being a part of the class

  18. Sr. Maryaline Zierle February 5, 2017 at 12:34 pm #

    You know the experience of finding something for the spirit at Exactly the right time…and I am there with this powerful presentation. Such a gift for retirement time, my journal is jumping with joy!

    • Sr. Julia Keegan February 7, 2017 at 9:25 am #

      Thanks Maryaline. I know that feeling of being surprised by life presenting us exactly what we need when we most need it. I am grateful.

  19. Patricia StClair February 6, 2017 at 7:38 pm #

    Thanks Julie, I haven’t written in my gratitude journal in forever, thanks for the reminder 🙂

  20. Sharon Previtera February 6, 2017 at 9:20 pm #

    While poetry is not a form of writing I gravitate toward, this one is beautiful! I was a bit confused in the second stanza when the writer asks, “Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
    Am I no longer young and still not half-perfect?”, in the middle of a beautiful, detailed observation of nature all around her. After a few reads I was moved at how long it must’ve been since the writer actually looked at herself in the midst of all that surrounded her. That is what I hope for, to be so taken in by the beauty God places in my midst I no longer see myself! Oh to be so full of gratitude!

    • Sr. Julia Keegan February 7, 2017 at 9:23 am #

      Thanks Sharon. I love Mary Oliver and in this poem I always think of it as the recognition of our primary call, our work or our purpose in life, to notice the beauty that’s everywhere and to empower it by giving it voice by our gratitude. And when I forget and start focusing on myself (my clothes, my shoes, my hair, my stupidity, my age) then I hear the call to come right back and to “REMEMBER” that my work, my prime call, is to notice the beauty everywhere and to be fully grateful. WE empower creation by thanking God for it. Michael Fish tells us that God is hiding everywhere wanting to be found and sometimes we just don’t bother to look, to discover, to be astonished. I’m glad you’re enjoying the course.

  21. Gwen Gibbbs February 7, 2017 at 7:02 am #

    Excellent week 1, in gratitude, I truly enjoyed this lesson.

  22. Gwen Gibbbs February 7, 2017 at 7:16 am #

    So Thankful

    I am so very thankful for life and health
    which means so much more than great wealth
    I’ve had trying times I must admit
    but I thank God for bringing me through it

    I am so very thankful for family and friends
    and for the love and laughter that never ends
    for a shoulder to lay my head or a listening ear
    and that voice that leaves me without any fear

    I am so thankful for the joy that I have in my heart
    that only God can give and no one can ever tear apart
    for His grace and mercy shown unto me
    and for that I shall be forever indebted to thee

    I am so grateful, and grateful I shall forever be
    because I know that happiness and gratitude lives within me.

    • Sr. Julia Keegan February 7, 2017 at 8:56 am #

      Wow! I was so hoping someone would do a poem. You are amazing. It is beautiful.

      • Gwen Gibbbs February 7, 2017 at 10:35 am #

        And for your kind comment I am also thankful. God bless : )

  23. Linda Kaars February 7, 2017 at 10:11 am #

    I am grateful for this opportunity, Thank you for sharing. A good reminder for me is to wake up and say Thank You. It starts the day being grateful for the opportunity for the blessing of being alive. From there, I move forward in the thought of blessing and prayer. Thank You, Sister Julia for this gift.

  24. Susan February 8, 2017 at 12:25 pm #

    I am so truly grateful for this experience and opportunity. I have been having some life challenges of late and this course was not only helpful, it was ripe with the fruit of God’s blessing of what others might call coincidence (but I prefer to call God’s handiwork). I loved the opening song for the Welcome and looked Karen Drucker up online. As it turns out, I own that CD – my dad had bought it for us a few years ago but we had forgotten about it. The song which Tony Robbins used in his video is one that I have been using for comfort over the last few weeks. And during my participation in that exercise, when Tony asked me to recall a coincidence, I was actually living one. My song of comfort came to me from an embedded video filmed way prior to that day. God is with us each day.

    • Sr. Julia Keegan February 8, 2017 at 1:17 pm #

      And the important thing is that you’re open and ready when God opens something beautiful for you.

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