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Chasing Down the Muse: Small steps of awareness lead to giving thanks

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.”

— Oprah Winfrey

It was a gorgeous day — the cool air was crisp, the morning sun warmed my skin. Walking along our beautiful coastline, I could not have been more content.

The tensions of election time are past, and while there is much about which to be concerned still ahead, there is also much for which to be grateful. In this week before the Thanksgiving holiday, this is where my mind turned as I walked.


Practicing — yes, practicing, again and again — can change how we experience life and the world around us. It has been found that exercising gratitude can actually change the way our neurons fire into more positive automatic patterns. Gratitude then can lead to feelings of love, appreciation, generosity and compassion.

Positive emotions can soothe distress, allowing for a more expansive view of our lives as connected beings. Growth and expansion, joy and laughter are the natural outcome, enhancing the quality of life.

First, breathe. Next, choose gratitude. Then, practice, practice, practice.

What things in your life help you or bring you pleasure? Be thankful, no matter how few there are. This is where you can start. Sure, there will always be things we can moan about, things that even feel devastating. It could always be worse. Choose to be grateful for the things that you have. It seems too often that those who concentrate on the lack of things never have enough.


The holiday season is now upon us. Yes, it came too soon, but here it is nevertheless. This is an ideal time to choose gratitude and begin to practice it. Whether with family or friends or choosing to be alone, practice being grateful for what you have. Tell someone. Expressing the gratitude is the cement in this mix: “Thank you. I’m glad you are in my life,” or “What a beautiful day this is! I’m so happy to be here.”

Simple, really.

Look around you. What do you notice? What do you hear? What do you see to admire? What astonishes you? What would you like to see again? What was most wonderful? These small steps of awareness from poet Mary Oliver are a great place to start on your gratitude journey. I find they often lead me straight to great joy.

And here’s a hint from friend Chris Romero: Choose happy companions who know gratitude over those with never enough.

Once you begin looking around, noticing things in a different, more open, appreciative way. I think you will be surprised at the change in your own outlook.

There are 86,400 seconds in this day. Begin with just one and give thanks in that brief moment.

Gerald Good said it best: “If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.”

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.


Cherril Doty is an artist, writer and director of the Sawdust Studio Art Classes in Laguna Beach. Always fascinated, inspired, and titillated by the beauty and the ever-changing mysteries of life, she can be reached at or by phone at (714) 745-9973.