An Artist's Quest

Getting My Gratitude Groove On

Frosty January Sunrise

January has been a strange and wonderful ride here in the Sonoma Valley.  The weather has been, to put it mildly, strange.  The New Year began unseasonably dry. For those of you unfamiliar with our habitat zone here, winter and spring are when it rains, summer and fall typically have little or no rain.  January is usually one of the most productive rain months, reservoirs begin to come up to capacity and the snow pack in the Sierras deepens with a promise of summer melts that continue to fill the reservoirs for the thirsty valley below.  This year, however, the rains did not come.  The Old Year ended and the New Year began, and still no rain.  The fine weather became the most talked about topic, every where from the checkout counter to the front page of the local paper; rain, or the lack there of, was on everyone’s mind.  In those conversations there was a complex mixture of feelings “can you believe this weather” followed by “but we sure could use the rain”.  I my self gloried in the wondrous winter weather, taking advantage of dry days to venture out on trails that should be muddy and mucky with swollen creeks crossings making them impassable or at least adventurous to cross.  I must say those sunny crisp days helped my mental state, brushing back the post holiday doldrums giving me a brighter outlook in the dark days of winter. Gratitude for the sun and bright blue sky warmed my January heart.  Well into the month, and just a little off the meteorologist predictions, the rain came.  And boy did it come, last week the clouds started building and when it began to rain on Thursday, there was so much pent up desire in those winter clouds, they could not stop, it rained and rained and rained…so that by Monday morning nearly ten inches fell on our little hilltop here at The Bishop’s Ranch.  Just like the sunny days of early January the rain was the topic of the day.  Not a single person complained we all laughed as we shook out our raincoats and umbrellas and donned our rubber boots. Gratitude for the rain and blustery grey sky filled my thirsty January heart.

The experience of the past month reminded me of an interview I heard with Matthieu Ricard talking to Krista Tippit on her radio show “On Being”.  Ricard is a French born Buddhist Monk.  Before becoming a monk he trained in France as a scientist with a brilliant career.  Now he is a liaison to the Dali Lama on issues of science and acts as his French translator.  A few years back a gathering of scientist and great thinkers including the Dali Lama and Ricard was conviened and the Mind and Life Institute was formed.  From this collaboration scientific research was launched into the functioning of the brain and the effects of meditation and emotion on the neuro pathways.  Ricard became one of the studies early participants.  He has been declared the “Happiest Man in the World”, a title he laughs off.  His brain has developed a unique set of neuro pathways that are attributed to mediation and his practice of compassion.  A research study showed that regular people like us were able to reshape their brains by practicing 20 minutes of meditation a day for 8 weeks.  This neuroplasticity means that the brain can carve new channels, we can redirect our thinking, and it can reshape our lives, through out our life.  This gets me back to the Gratitude groove.  Greeting each day with gratitude can dig a positive neuro pathway in our brain, a drainage ditch of positive thinking.  It’s like clearing out the rain gutters of our brain of all the yucky gloopy stuff that has accumulated so that the positive channels are clear to send all that cleansing good energy all through our thoughts and body and life.  We CAN change our minds.  Thank you January for reminding me to be grateful for what comes when it comes; I’m cleaning out my mental rain gutters and setting up my rain barrel, so let it rain!

Here is a link to the Mind & Life Institute

You can listen to Krista Tippits  “On Being” interview with Matthieu Ricard by going to the American Public Media site podcasts

 Here is a link to a 1 min. youtube video that simple illustrates Neuroplasticity;

My webmaster husband is away for the week so this painting is not posted on my website yet but will be soon and is for sale… to see what is posted click >


9 responses

  1. Such a great post and reminder! Loved it! 🙂

    January 27, 2012 at 8:32 am

  2. What an awesome post – and I love On Being, listen to it every Sunday and have learned so much from Krista’s interviews. Last year I started a project that had much to do with the meditative aspect of art-making, and focused quite a bit on positive aspects such as gratitude, taking notice of the world around me, and making a difference through art. The project now has its own blog ( and welcomes participants to join… Thank you, and keep dry!

    January 27, 2012 at 11:40 am

    • Vivika, I really love your prayer Flag project. I think I’ll work on one for my blog to share with you. I also do a lot of work with kids and family groups doing art and making prayer flags would be a great project! Thanks for the inspiration.

      January 27, 2012 at 2:05 pm

  3. Leslie Ross

    Gratitude for the smile and goosebumps I get reading your words. Gratitude for the possibility of becoming more groovy.

    January 28, 2012 at 7:44 am

  4. Mary Anne

    I am a fan of weather…especially enjoy rain. I remember the sound it made hitting my grandparents’ metal farmhouse roof and sitting on the porch watching a storm roll in across the fields. On the east coast it seems that it rains much more often at night which does not compare with a beautiful daytime storm!

    I am grateful now for everything, good and bad, since all of it is connected and much of the bad led to reflection and change that was beneficial for me.

    January 30, 2012 at 11:54 am

    • Ah, the sound of rain on a metal roof I love that too. Lisa

      January 30, 2012 at 5:44 pm

  5. Jane

    Firstly I love the art piece!

    What a difference an attitude of gratitude makes; and how much easier when your mind is not cluttered by all the goop in that has collected in your gutters. Yet how often is the theory so much easier than the practice. This brings my mind back to your last posting and the reflection on the need for practice to ensure success. It is reminder to me that gratitude does not just happen, I need to keep practicing. Practice will help me to keep those gutters clean and make it easier for gratitude to flow like the spring rains (whenever they come).

    January 30, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    • Practice practice practice….a life long journey keep clearing and cleaning, growing and changing…that is a life well lived.

      January 31, 2012 at 8:57 am

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