Circles and Cycles of Gratitude  

Imagine being a middle schooler again, arriving on a Friday morning, walking into a darkened, quiet room, joining the rest of your class in a circle on the floor and hearing something like this from your teacher…

Please take a moment to free up your hands, find a comfortable, seated position and bring your awareness to how your body is feeling at this moment. Whatever happened this morning, whatever is running through your mind…let it go.

Tune into your breath. Don’t attempt to change the rhythm, depth or pattern but rather just notice the ups and downs. Now, allow for your breath to lengthen…allow for a pause as you breathe out and back in. Release the stress, obstacles, challenges of the morning with an audible sigh, allow this release to let you unwind and relax.

Now, lets open the centering circle by lighting the candle.

Rituals such as these can be experienced in every RCS classroom on daily basis. They take various forms depending on the age of the students and the culture of the classroom. This sense of mindful reverence is intentionally invited into each circle of students so to pave the way for some deep exploration of self.

A theme of gratitude became the focus of this centering and the wisdom of the words by William Arthur Ward served to guide the student’s inner reflection. This William Arthur Ward quote was read aloud by Omega teacher, Mark Hanf… “Gratitude can turn a common day into a thanksgiving, turn routines jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”  Mark followed by talking about the transformative power that gratitude reflections can have on your happiness and shared a personal story about how his own use a gratitude journal has had a profound influence on how he views reality. This idea of “turning a blue day into a new day” by shifting your perspective is backed by a large body of research. This research highlights using gratitude lists or journals to positively impact your mental health and well being. Below are a few articles on the subject.

Harvard Medical School
UC Davis 
UC Berkeley 

The remainder of the gratitude centering emphasized refelction. The Omega students took a few minutes to create gratitude lists in their centering journals and then were guided through a reflective practice in which they explored the appreciations that they have for each of their classmates. At RCS we call this a gratitude circle. Our students begin this reflective process in preschool and cycle through it in some form each year. For this particular circle each student wrote their name in the center of a piece of paper and then that paper was passed around the circle while each classmate added an appreciation.

The process felt like a solemn mediation- it was quiet, the students were focused and engaged and then as the papers were returned to their owners something truly beautiful happened- a wave of smiles, grins, giggles emerged. It was pure joy to witness the transformative power of this activity. It is a powerful practice to acknowledge those things you appreciate about yourself but it it can also be incredibly inspiring to hear them from others. Try it! Share an appreciation today!

How can what we do at RCS inspire your own personal or professional work? 

Gratitude lists have tangible benefits! Try inviting them into your daily practice- Here are some helpful hints: be specific, be consistent, share your gratitudes, strive to shift your mind set- find the good in the bad. 

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