Have you ever felt overwhelmed with gratitude to the point where your body was shimmering with joy and you needed to break out in song? If you’re like me, you might sing: “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day” from the musical “Oklahoma,” or “What a day this has been, what a rare mood I’m in,” from the musical Brigadoon, or Karen Drucker’s timeless song, “I’m so Grateful.”
Gratitude is my second top character strength, which makes me a very lucky person. Being grateful, as we know from the work of Sonya Lyubormirsky (The How of Happiness) and Robert Emmons (The Little Book of Gratitude), has astonishing benefits. Emmons states that gratitude benefits include sustained reduction in cortisol levels, lower levels of stress hormones, improvement in sleep, and increased levels of optimism. Gratitude is the gift that keeps on giving.
So is Mother Earth. Today, as Earth Day draws near, I am writing in my daily gratitude journal the many ways I am grateful for our Earth Mama. Being a snowbird who divides the year between the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts and Sarasota, Florida, I am beyond grateful to be sitting right now on a cushion on my Sarasota patio, gazing at my garden. I have been coming to Florida every winter for two decades to take care of my bronchials, which do not do well in the cold, dry winters of the Berkshires. Two days after my second Moderna vaccine in my (sore but relieved) arm, I’m clad in bare feet and yoga shorts, happily breathing in the warm, wet air. If you live in the Northeast, you might be hating me right now, perhaps feeling jealous? If so, the ancient Buddhist practice of mudita—sympathetic joy—is a good antidote!
As I gaze about, gratefully seeing the palms and hibiscus blossoms, hearing the soft coos of the mourning doves overhead, I sigh in joy. What a year for me. I have been absolutely alone in my home. No people, no animals, just a couple of plants. But I have not felt lonely. Learning Zoom was hard, but I did it, and it has kept me working and connected to humankind. I teach classes and trainings, and take classes and trainings, including a weekly improv class, which makes my face hurt from laughing! And of course, I teach embodied positive psychology offerings through WBI. Now I wonder, will this gregarious introvert ever want to come back from happily Zooming to teaching in person? I have so appreciated teaching and training on Zoom while also enjoying solitude and introspection.
Mother Earth has been a huge gift for me this year as well. I have created dances for Her, love songs, and movement apologies to Her for all the ills we have committed. I have also taken small steps—kaizen change—to honor Her, and am always thinking about new ways to do so. Do any of these options resonate with you?
- Plant something in your garden—kitchen or windowsill gardens are also great
- Ride your bike
- Let your voice be heard
- Tune in to Earth Day events on April 22
- Buy reusable bags
- Use a refillable water bottle
I’ll close with one of my favorite Earth poems, by e.e. cummings:
I thank you God for most this amazing
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
Join Megha for an InSPIREd Earth Day Celebration on Thursday, April 22, from 12:00–1:00 pm, as part of the WBI/JCC Online Positive Psychology Hour series. This joy-based hour-long festival of gratitude, appreciation, and love for Mother Earth, and the earth of your own body, will include qigong and gentle yoga, moving meditation, poetry, American Sign Language, Let Your Yoga Dance, and relaxation, coupled with three embodied positive psychology character strengths. We will also explore Earth Day’s Theme for 2021: Restore the Earth. Register here.
Megha Nancy Buttenheim, MA, M.A., E-RYT 1000, is CEO and founding director of Let Your Yoga Dance® LLC, and author of “Expanding Joy: Let Your Yoga Dance, Embodying Positive Psychology”. An expert in experiential education, Megha is a long-time teacher-trainer at Kripalu Center, where she has trained thousands of people in yoga, health, movement, and meditation. letyouryogadance.com