beyond gratitude: mind mapping, sense memory & power outages

A few weeks ago I was talking about the simple things I love and appreciate.


My brief moments and small loves, I called them.

Sometimes, I’ll ask clients to share what they appreciate and what’s good in their lives, particularly when they’re feeling down, drained or defeated.

Usually I hear a familiar litany, with small variations here and there: my health, a roof over my head, the kids, food on the table, my partner, enough money.

I’ve come to see it as the standard gratitude list, a kind of rote recitation.

Unanchored thoughts.

Words that hang in the air or get deposited on the page.

A decided lack of energy around them.

Maybe that’s because we’re usually in our heads when we’re trying to locate gratitude, globally conceptualizing and asking questions.

Yet deep appreciation often lives at the micro level of experience and shows up in small, fleeting moments.

Of course, the dilemma is that when we’re feeling down, drained or defeated, it’s very, very hard to stay present to these small moments of deep appreciation.

So I’ve been playing with mind mapping as a way to help my clients turn toward their deeper appreciations.

I got out my water-color crayons and ended up creating a big visual mind map filled with brief moments and small loves, focusing particularly on the things that get me out of my head and into my senses.



touch and feeling…








In the midst of it the lights went out and I unexpectedly found myself calling back an old technique from my acting days: sense memory.

Sense memory is the process of recalling physical sensations in order to recreate a time, place or feeling.

Wow! That definitely amplified the mind mapping (along with the darkness).

Creating by the light of a few candles, I dropped down into sensation and remembering. Then a rush of deeply joyful experiences and feelings came forward, like how much I love the sound of swings swinging.

And suddenly I was even more tuned in to the brief moments and small loves that are going on around me all the time.

So why not go for small, brief sips rather than big gulps of gratitude?

Surrender to them in the moment.

If that feels hard, prime the pump with your sense memory and start calling forward physical sensations/times/experiences that are personally meaningful and satisfying.

And if you really want to have some fun and trigger an attitude adjustment, make a big sensation-based visual mind map (candlelight optional.)


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4 thoughts on “beyond gratitude: mind mapping, sense memory & power outages

  1. Not only do I love the idea of the mind map you propose, I love the one you created–it is gorgeous! And you elucidated something that’s bugged me for a long time. I know that gratitude is an important part of my spiritual practice, and I do have so much to be grateful for–yet when I go through the list, there is, as you say, a decided lack of energy around it. This gives me food for thought on how to deepen my practice.

    • I’m delighted to hear that Charlotte. And I love the word *elucidate*! It’s great to know that I’m not the only one who finds the standard gratitude list leaves something to be desired energy-wise.

  2. Yes, glorious map, Patty! I’ve finally found my way to gratitude and it came from the fact that I felt that human love always came a bit short. Well, we’re human, aren’t we? so I decided that I would see if I could feel loved by looking for signs of it in the Universe. And, boy, is there an abundance of it!! It started with brief moments and not much energy but one thing led to another (like on your map) and now I’m experiencing big gulps of gratitude more and more often. WE ARE LOVED! And it’s a wonderful thing! It’s more than gratitude, it’s awe-filled appreciation.

    • Oh my, this is so awesome Maryse. Last year I saw Rick Hanson talking about building our inner nurturers by looking for all the signs around us that we are cared for and cared about. That wisdom felt so deep to me, and my clients have benefited from it too. And I love how you proclaim the LOVE that’s all around us!

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