It's really easy to focus on negative emotions. At times, these feelings -- sadness, anger, fear -- can be so overwhelming it seems as though there is nothing else. Psychologists encourage us to work on reversing this 'negativity bias' by being intentional about practicing gratitude. Go on a retreat; meditate; pray; take up yoga. Across everything they prescribe, the thing that stands out to me is the simplest antidote of all.
Instead of actively practicing gratitude, I find it most useful to just notice it when it comes. Recently, I've been noticing it in relation to people I love. Sitting around the dinner table with my parents on a Friday night, wine glasses full. Lying in a circle of friends in the park as the sun slopes down behind the trees. Writing a letter to someone I care about, and feeling grateful to have a person who makes the act of doing so rewarding.
While I'm certain gratitude comes in many forms, I've found it to be most powerful when it reminds me of my own connectedness. To the world, to other people, to physical things. Gratitude is not forced prayer or daily recitations, nor truisms or platitudes. No, gratitude is that feeling of astonishment when you recognize how deeply tied to another you can feel. It's the way you share that feeling -- saying "I love you"; "I hear you"; "I miss you". Sometimes it's even the physical sensation in your chest.
This week, poems about noticing gratitude -- anywhere.
by W.S. Merwin
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions
back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you
with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is
When Giving Is All We Have
by Alberto Ríos
One river gives
Its journey to the next.
We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.
We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.
We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—
Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.
Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:
Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.
You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me
What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made
Something greater from the difference.
by Marilyn Nelson
Thank you for these tiny
particles of ocean salt,
for the infinite,
For algae spores
and fungus spores,
bonded by vital
mutual genetic cooperation,
from equator to pole.
My hand, my arm,
make sweeping circles.
Dust climbs the ladder of light.
For this infernal, endless chore,
for these eternal seeds of rain:
Thank you. For dust.
Are you looking for poems that fit a specific topic or feeling? Reply to this email with whatever that topic area is, and I'll cover your topic (and suggest some poems that fit!) in an upcoming edition of Sunday Poems.