My French friend Veronique once went on vacation with my family. We taught her to play Rook and catch crabs off the dock. She taught us how to make crepes and the words to Alouette, Gentille Alouette. One night we were listening to jazz and finishing a jigsaw puzzle. We let Veronique place the last piece. “This calls for a celebration!” my mom crowed, going into the kitchen. Moments later we heard the distinct pop of a champagne cork. My mom handed everyone a flute and started pouring from the bottle of Perrier-Jouet. We noticed Veronique had tears in her eyes.
“My grandfather had an incredible collection of rare and expensive champagne,” she told us in her beautifully accented English. “He never drank the good bottles. He was saving them”. For what, she would never know. During the Occupation, the Nazis raided his stash and drank or broke every bottle. After the war, Veronique’s grandfather would always tell the grandchildren to boire les bonnes choses. Drink the good stuff.
Indeed. Don’t wait for a special occasion. You are the director of your own life. That means you get to decide what a special occasion is. My mother taught me to always have a bottle of champagne on hand and to be generous in deciding which moments are worthy of a toast. In my family, we open champagne to celebrate the miraculous and the mundane. Because someone had a birthday. Because it’s Tuesday. Because the sun is shining. Because someone brought a gorgeous Camembert. Because brunch without mimosas is just breakfast. Because the little moments are the good stuff.
What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t wait to celebrate living. So often we hold back, waiting for an occasion that warrants true celebration. But think about the days that should be the most memorable. The weddings, the new jobs, the births, the retirements, the deaths. Often, our memories of those moments are foggy, as things slip by in a blur of overstimulation or unreasonable expectation.
What are you waiting for? The good life exists in the little things. Don’t wait for some future celebration that may or may not come. Are you putting off happiness, suffering towards some unknowable future? We are only promised this moment. And no one knows when the Nazis might show up and detour your well-made plans. Start basking in your blessings right now. When we are awake to the miraculous that surrounds us in every moment, it’s easy to find reasons to celebrate. Of course we should celebrate life’s big moments. But we should also acknowledge and enjoy the little ones. That’s where the majority of the good stuff lies. The ordinary is almost always extraordinary when we truly notice the now. Celebrating small successes motivates us, keeps us focused on what matters and brings more joy into our everyday lives. True joy comes in drops rather than mouthfuls. In a child’s laughter. In a snuggle. In a sunflower or the first snowfall or the purr of a cat.
Honoring the small moments helps us practice how to be fully present to the big wins too, so that when the biggies occur, we can be fully extant, rather than allowing them to pass us by because we are too exhausted or distracted to notice them.
So how do we awaken to the miraculous in the mundane? By adopting an attitude of gratitude. When we take time to be thankful for the small things in our lives, we realize how blessed we truly are and how much of our lives call for celebration. Appreciation appreciates. Cultivating thankfulness increases our happiness and well-being and hones our ability to see the blessings in all experiences, even the hard or challenging ones.
Japa mala refers to a string of prayer beads used by Buddhsts and Hindus during meditation to count breaths, prayers or mantras (intentions). Similar to a rosary, there are 108 beads per mala. I adopted a beautiful Buddhist tradition a few years ago of practicing a gratitude mala each Thanksgiving (and at each solstice or equinox). You simply list 108 things you are grateful for, from the small (sudoku, fuzzy socks, Stevie Wonder) to the large (family, health, home). This year I made my personal list but also asked my yoga students to help me create a community list of blessings. Gather a pen, some paper and your mindful, thankful heart. Might I suggest a cold glass of bubbly while you list? I believe this moment calls for a celebration.