Basically this book is designed to be used for an entire calendar year, month by month. It approaches gratitude from a cross-cultural perspective and has a variety of practices and tools based on long-held wisdom that humans have explored for centuries.
Each month there is a different focus. I chose a couple of practices for each month that sounded interesting:
January - reopen to life with fresh eyes as a new year begins
- Each week, choose to experience something new; do something that you have not done before. New experiences offer new possibilities and opportunities or growth.
- Start your own meaningful collection of gratitude materials (e.g., family prayers, poems, passages of literature).
February - explores the relationship between gratitude and love
- Each day this month, take an action that brings more love into the world and relieves suffering: acts of service, communicating gratitude, acknowledging others' presence and gifts, acting in kindness, or expressing joy.
- At the beginning of each week, create a pan for expressing love in work, relationships, health, and generating abundance. Write down one action you plan to take to express love in each area.
March - how gratitude flows from serving others
- Take time to rest and renew yourself.
- Practice Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush's five ways of cultivating compassionate service; and, as a result, become what Maslow calls, "a better person": be brave, start small, use what you have, do something you enjoy, and don't overcommit.
- Perform a compassionate act every day this month.
April - traditions of purification, redemption, and liberation
- Make amends this month in at least two areas of your life.
- When are you experiencing jealousy, envy, or are comparing yourself to others? Practice strengthening your self-esteem and sense of self-sufficiency by locating yourself in self-trust, self-respect, and remembering your own self-value and unique purpose.
- Each day during this month, spend an hour in nature and in silence; the soul is strengthened by this practice. Notice what captures your attention and why.
May - spontaneous gratitude
- Track and give gratitude for the places of grace and peace in your life, and within your own nature.
- Spend at least a half hour in silent meditation every day.
- What practices do you have that honor your ancestors and loved ones who have gone before you?
June - looks at balance in one's life
- For one week, track the triggers that you let take you off balance or into states of reactivity, denial, or indulgence. In what ways to you bring yourself back into balance when you are off balance?
Celebrate and give gratitude for at least three things that are working very well in your life at this time.
July - nature can inspire gratitude
- Each week, take a resourceful action that supports tending to the natural environment - the beautiful world that has been given to us.
- Spend a full hour outdoors every day to increase your health and well-being. As creatures of nature, we need natural light and air to support our health. The more quality time we spend in nature, the more we get in touch with our internal nature.
- Create a nature journal. As you explore the outdoors, record the animals, birds, insects, flowers, and trees that you see. Keep a log of your favorite places. Notice what keeps capturing your imagination in the natural world. Whatever we pay attention to has meaning for us.
August - peacemaking and gratitude
- Take an action every day to face areas or circumstances in which you are chronically weak-hearted or lacking the courage to say what is true for you.
- Make time every day to do something that increases a sense of peace for you, in your internal world as well as your external world.
September - new pathways to a better life
- For the next six weeks, practice giving quality, quantity, and frequent time and attention to the five principles that support optimum health according to Dr. Darren Weissman: water, food, rest, exercise, and owning your power.
- Practice increasing your life-enhancing choices on a daily basis this month.
October - appreciate things as they are
- What really matters to you at this time? Are you creating a life that matters? What specific actions will you take this month to support what truly matters to you?
- Collect colorful fall leaves. On yellow ones, write your learnings this month; use red ones for heartfelt gratitudes. Use white paper on which to write down your longings, and then purify your longings by burning the paper in fire. Do the same thing for any regrets you may have experienced this year.
November - practice grateful seeing
- Practice generosity of spirit by giving to the needy or offering anonymous acts of kindness. Clear out what you are not using and do not need and give it away to those who could use it.
- Write letters, call, or send gifts of gratitude to those who have provided blessings in your life.
- Spend at least 15 minutes a day in silence and deep listening. Take time to rebalance, rest, and come back to your center or ground of being - that grace-filled sanctuary of quiet, stillness, and peace that Mother Teresa and others drew from in order to do their good works in the world.
December - spontaneity and joy despite winter's darkness
- Each day this month, take an action that will alleviate suffering in the world or in your family. "Bring light into darkness." Extend an act of kindness or tangibly help those in need through your compassionate actions.
- Practice the art of heartfelt giving and receiving.
- On a daily basis, extend an act of generosity, with which you give, surprise, or delight those who are in need of more joy or less suffering. These may be friends, family members, colleagues, or strangers who could benefit from acts of kindness and generosity. Try to do this anonymously, so there is no expectation or a return action in kind.
Some things that stood out from the book:
- the practice of gratitude provides healing and enhances our own inherent nature.
Today may be appreciate this food
and remember those who are hungry.
May we appreciate our family and friends
and remember those who are alone.
May we appreciate our health
and remember those who are sick.
May we appreciate the freedoms we have
and remember those who suffer injustice and tyranny.
Peace on earth.
- Buddhist Blessing for Food