Julia's story - The Gratitude Trees

"I enjoyed making a little wish each time I passed between the trees and took a huge breath of relief each time I passed the other way and expressed gratitude. The habit has never gone away."

Illustration of two tall trees

I work at a boarding and day school that has an equestrian center, where the students who attend school can ride in the Equestrian program to learn to ride, or for the really ambitious ones, to ride and compete.

It is an intense program with a lot of moving parts, and for the staff, it is no easy task. My job is Head Coach of the competition program.

My job can be stressful at the equestrian center, with a full schedule of lessons, training rides, event deadlines, family communications, horse show preparation, and on and on.

While I love my work passionately, I have found that the overwhelm and stress of the piled-on work can make me anxious and stressed. This in turn makes it harder to focus on the moment and do the best I can do.

On the path from the office to the main barn, there are 2 Douglas Fir trees that stand about 6 feet apart, tall and welcoming, which curve at the top toward each other like two dear friends in cherished conversation.

I have made a habit of walking between these trees rather than around them, as they give me a sense of inclusion, support, and love. I started a silly ritual about a year ago that became a daily habit and now doesn't seem so silly.

Each time I passed between the fir trees going up to the barn, I made a simple wish. Usually, the wish would be related to my workday "I wish the two new German students have a great lesson today" or "May the meeting with so-and-so go smoothly" and "I hope this rider or that rider feels brave and calm today and able to rise to the challenge".

Sometimes the wish would be bigger: "May Covid-19 go away within 2 months" or "I hope that Jane's broken ankle is healing swiftly and without pain" and " I desire clearer communication between me and _".

I couldn't take too much time to overthink the wish because it was made in passing and usually during a busy moment, so whatever first came to mind would be my wish. Some days I pass through these trees 20 times or more.

I'm not particularly religious, but I suppose you could see my daily wishes as little prayers. The second part of the ritual is that each time I walked the other direction through the friendly trees I say thank you.

"Thank you for a great day" or "Thank you for keeping Mary safe" or "Thank you for my husband and boys and their health" or simply acknowledging that a wish had been fulfilled: "Thank you for making sure the new German girls had a great lesson and the horses behaved!"

And "Thank you for helping me understand so-and-so's point of view." Or even just a deep breath and the heavenly words... "Thank you!". A week or two after starting this I noticed that I was feeling less stressed and happier. This is when it became a ritual.

I enjoyed making a little wish each time I passed between the trees and took a huge breath of relief each time I passed the other way and expressed gratitude. The habit has never gone away.

The two trees remind me every day to wish good things for the world, other people, and myself. And they remind me to be thankful, grateful for small or big things. This ritual helps me to see the beauty in the small moments and my surroundings.

"Thank you for this beautiful sunrise, the gorgeous weather, my health, and my ability to grow as a human within my work and family".

Team Gratitude

Team Gratitude

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