In Judaism, thanksgiving is not relegated to one day of the year. We are taught to cultivate a daily gratitude practice, and express that gratitude as our first act of the day. The ancient rabbis tell us, “Let your first words be an expression of gratitude and job.” When we wake up – even before our first cup of coffee! – we are supposed to recite the prayer Modeh/Modah Ani. With these words, we thank God for the gift of life. From this we learn that Judaism considers the expression of gratitude as essential and powerful.
In anticipation of November, I signed up for a daily Gratitude Art Journaling Class. Online, of course, and pre-recorded. Which is a good thing since I only have time to view one video per week instead of per day.
The class combines gratitude prompts with new art journaling techniques. Early on, I found the gratitude prompts to be not only meaningful, but also thoughtful and deep, and even more rewarding than the art projects . One prompt in particular was especially uplifting. I still smile when I think about it.
The prompt began with a couple of questions: Whose wise advice do you still follow? What lesson did you learn from a friend, parent, mentor that proved to be quite valuable? Once we identified the lesson or advice, we were instructed to do two things: first, create a page in a our journal based on the quote or lesson or advice that we still follow; second – and most important – contact the person who taught us the lesson and thank them for their wisdom.
Although I haven’t finished the artistic expression around the advice I still follow (I’m taking my time and enjoying the journey), the second was much easier. I emailed my mentor, told him about the class, and shared with him my immense gratitude for all that he had taught me. I probably would not have thought to contact him to thank him in this general and yet very important way. I had thanked him many times in the moments when he helped me. To go back in reflection and offer my thanks to him had a significant and long-lasting impact on both of us.
And, once I finish the page in my journal, I will always be able to look back at that page and remember: remember the good advice, my relationship with my mentor, and the effect of a few simple words.
I invite you to ask yourselves the same question, reflect on which lesson or advice you still follow, and thank the person who shared their wisdom with you.
Happy Thanksgiving: may we all find happiness in giving thanks, tomorrow and every day.