I was a single mother for many years. My son and I had a nightly routine that began with four familiar words, “It’s time for bed.” As soon as I would begin to utter this announcement, we’d race headlong to my bed. The first person to get there would exclaim, “Name three things that made you happy today.” We’d take turns recounting good things from our day but the last person to get there had to go first. Here’s what we discovered:
- We started looking for good things in our day. We knew we were going to report on it later in the day, so we collected good things to bring back home.
- We noticed patterns in our expressions of gratitude. Often they involved connecting with other people, accomplishing a goal, finishing a project, or learning something new.
- The blessings were not always big things, but were more often something really small like smiling and being kind to a store clerk and noticing how it would brighten their day or the smell of coffee and the warm feeling of drinking it on a cold morning.
Our nightly routine opened a door for discovering not only the types of things that made us happy, but it was a time to discuss what was happening in our days, how we were feeling, and what was important to us. It became a teachable moment to reflect on these “gratitudes” and make connections with our values, ideals, and faith.
Make Your Own Blessing Jar
Today’s prayerful project is based on the newest gratitude practice in my household. A jar sits on the kitchen table with strips of paper and a pen alongside it. Family members are invited to record unexpected surprises and blessings onto the paper strips and tuck it into the jar. On New Year’s Eve, we empty out the jar, read the messages, and remember the many blessings from the year. It’s a wonderful way to close one year and begin a new one. And, it’s a simple way to remember and celebrate as a family.
Dream Wheel 2016
For over 12 years now, I’ve started my year by creating a “vision board” where I cut up images and words that reflect my hopes, wishes, and dreams for the year. In recent years, my vision boards are 18″ circles cut out of cardboard and I call them “dream wheels.” Pictured above is the dream wheel that I created 2016.
Blessings Wheel 2016
After my husband and I read through our blessing jar slips we were not sure what to do with them. A few days later, a friend on Facebook tagged me on a photo of a mandala that she had created where she wrote her blessings in a spiral. As soon as I saw it I knew, “That’s it!”
Working off this idea, I pulled out my Dream Wheel from the year and turned it over. I started by drawing a heart in the center and spiraling a large path. My husband and I recorded a lot of blessings so I started by writing small and hugging the line. I then made another pass around the spiral only this time writing the letters to fill the space. Amazingly all of the blessings fit in my mandala perfectly!
It was fun to make some connections between the two sides, between what I hoped for and what happened. For example, shortly after my book was published a friend went to Kripalu for a weekend program and took my book with her. She snapped a photo of my book with Kripalu’s main building in the background. She sent it to me with a note that she could see me teaching mandala workshops there. What is amazing is that I had first learned about Kripalu back in the late 80’s and have wanted to go there, but time and money were often barriers until one day I had forgotten this dream. I printed my friend’s photo and added it to my dream wheel.
Six months later, I finally had my first Kripalu experience. I wanted to see for myself if teaching mandalas there would be a good fit for me. Within two days of returning home, I pulled together a program proposal and sent it off. Will my dream of teaching mandala workshops at Kripalu become a reality? I don’t know, but what I do know is that my dream wheel helped me to “see” my dream and remember it. Keeping this goal top of mind led to taking the next step, writing the proposal.
Writing out the blessings also helped me to recognize some patterns of things that are important to me. The two that jump out the most from 2016 are family and community. My husband and I cherish the times we had with our sons and every opportunity to connect with them. Secondly, what I loved this year, even more than publishing my first book, was how close the 100 Mandalas Community has grown since I opened up the new private members website. The learning, sharing, and friendships that happen in our Sharing Circle is priceless.
If the Blessings Jar and Dream Wheel projects interest you, check out my upcoming online Mandala Retreat. The Dream Wheel is one of several projects that we create that help us to remember our dreams and tap into our deepest desires for the year. This course also covers how to create your own nourishing personal retreats. LEARN MORE
Thank you Sandra MacPherson for the idea to record my blessings in a mandala. Brilliant idea!
Thank you Melissa Martin for helping me to remember my Kripalu dream!
Visit catholicnh.org/downloads to print up a label to color and add to your jar. The download also includes other ideas and projects for your gratitude practice.
The “Blessings Jar” article is from my Prayerful Projects column for Parable Magazine.