Gratitude for Kids

Meditations on Gratitude in the City of Angels

When I discovered yoga at age 33, it took no more than three classes for me to instantly become like a heroin junkie, going to class after class after class. And not long after that, I began scheduling my entire life around never missing class.  Yoga was the compelling medicine my hungry heart had been yearning for my whole life: physical, spiritual, mental and aesthetic.  The teacher I gravitated towards, and who became my yoga ‘dealer’ was Bryan Kest.  After a dizzyingly intensive physical practice during which all your muscles were specifically engaged in a magical sequence and flow, we would sit for a gratitude meditation before lying back in savasana, final resting pose.

In those first 10 minutes of meditation, we focused our breath, our thoughts, our feelings, and our full consciousness on gratitude. Pure, unadulterated gratitude. “What are you grateful for?” Bryan would ask. Just list it all in your mind.

At first, being new to gratitude practice, my mind searched for grand things. Things like the last trip I took to Rome or the amazing dinner date at Ivy On The Shore two nights before, the new green dress I had worn. Soon, my focus began to shift.  Gratitude. The smell of an orange peel, wiggling my fingers and toes, a hummingbird’s dance, the air I breathed into healthy lungs. Sauntering to my car holding my yoga mat under my arm, everything became alive with possibility and presence.

Gratitude, I began to notice, had this beautifying effect on my entire life. I felt light and weightless, I felt forgiveness for old family resentments and sorrows. I felt compassion for those who had hurt me, and especially, for myself.  In fact, what had pained me so deeply was peeling off my memories, so I could barely access old hurts because of my yoga and gratitude practice. Wow! What was happening?

I had been recently married when I moved out to Los Angeles from NYC, but six years later, while completing my divorce, I was led, breadcrumb by breadcrumb, to Bryan Kest’s yoga classes —and to gratitude practice. At the time, I felt like a shining newborn fawn in the City of Angels. After gratitude meditation, I floated down the stairs of Power Yoga, above Radio Shack on Santa Monica Blvd into downtown Santa Monica. My eyes softened at the often shrieking horns of cars and zig-zagging homeless people. This made me realize that gratitude practice is transformative.  Every.  Single.  Time.

Why oh why did I wait so long to begin this magical practice? Why did they not teach me gratitude in school?  Why do they not have gratitude classes for children in school?

Gratitude for Kids

Meet Napoleon Gratitude. He’s a man with a mission to have a powerful impact on the world through the practice of gratitude.  Realizing the profound effects gratitude had on him at an extremely dire time in his life, he also had some of the same questions I did about teaching gratitude in school. Recognizing that a child’s brain develops four times faster between the ages of three to seven,  he decided to write his illustrated children’s book, Gratitude for Kids, with some assistance from his 13-year-old son, also named Napoleon.  This colorful, instructional playbook is filled with exercises both for children and parents to enjoy together.


Book Cover Gratitude for Kids

The Story of the Creation: Gratitude for Kids

Here’s the story behind this book. In 2014, Napoleon hit a dark moment, when all his personal savings had gone into investing in his company, and money was filtering away to scarcity.  His levels of personal stress and desperation were building. He expected to emerge ready to take on the world after all the years of Transformational Seminars, Spiritual Retreats, Therapy Sessions, Abundance Workshops, and hundreds of self-help books. But he found himself idling back to a particular feeling of fear.  A place where he felt contracted.  Paralysis emanating from this fear caused stagnation in his outer world. He made the connection that this fear was formed, conditioned, and learned in childhood. No matter how much work he did on himself, he experienced a return to this fear place.

When an eviction notice arrived for his condo, he hit bottom emotionally. His only thought was of his son having a good life. At this time, the unthinkable crossed his mind. If he took his own life, his son would have his life insurance and live comfortably. Napoleon was so intensely engrossed in his son’s well-being that he didn’t even consider that taking his life would harm his son that much more. He got down on his knees and asked God for help.  “If there is a God, show me a different way ‘cause my way is not working.”

Thankfully for us, at this moment when all hope was lost, just like in the archetypal hero’s journey, Napoleon finally cracked open. He began in earnest a 28-day Gratitude Practice that a friend had given him weeks before. It was the moment of epiphany. None of those prior workshops addressed his core issue, which was a lack of self-worth. A practice of daily gratitude, he discovered, created new neural pathways invoking the feeling of self-worth. It actually reconfigures the brain.

Studies show that daily repetition for adults, for 63 days to be exact, literally rewires the brain.  So the older you are, the more repetition is necessary, which is why children’s brains get wired directly into feelings of worthiness when they begin young.

The Power of the Gratitude Practice

While doing the Gratitude Practice, in basically no time, through a series of what appeared to be coincidences, he met a tech pioneer that agreed to be his business partner on a project.  A few weeks later, a $25,000 check arrived. Napoleon learned to visualize and feel the gratitude before the gifts arrived, and continued testing and expanding this visualization practice. The gifts kept appearing, until eventually half a million dollars came from new investors.  Napoleon decided to share the gratitude exercises with two friends.  That Gratitude Group has now expanded to 18,000 members across many apps, continents, and countries.

And now, he wants to help make this impact on children, while their brains are still forming. So they can spend their young years flourishing and thriving, as opposed to feeling stressed and having trouble learning.  And what perfect timing during this unprecedented pandemic, to ease fear and spread the gift of Gratitude.

Benefits of Gratitude for Kids

A study conducted by the University of California has found that children who practice gratitude are:

  • More confident
  • Happier
  • Focus better
  • Have better cognitive thinking
  • Have increased self-esteem
  • Are more optimistic
  • Have lower rates of depression
  • Have better Impulse control
  • Experience less stress
  • Experience better physical health
  • Experience more joy
  • Are more creative

Two Magic Words: Thank You

Napoleon learned from reading Neale Donald Walsh, “Gratitude in advance (visualization) is the most powerful force in the Universe.”  And he wants to make a difference, not only in the adult world through his Gratitude Group, but for our future generations.  Your children are our future.

“Gratitude for Kids” is globally inclusive, written, and created with illustrations of children of various colors and races.  The book encompasses 28 days, each focusing on a different aspect of life to be grateful for.  It teaches the magical words: Thank You. It assists in expanding children’s minds to find things to be grateful for. And above all, Gratitude for Kids is fun!

I have faith from my own experience of Gratitude Meditation that this practice can assist children to become more aware of the world around them, by saying thank you, thank you, thank you.  This outer awareness leads to opening the world inside them where happiness, joy, and self-worth can be born.

I reflect back to how I wondered years ago, why this practice wasn’t taught in school, as I floated out of my yoga practice, high on being alive and filled with gratitude. Now the book “Gratitude for Kids” is available. Share it with your children and grandchildren. It’s a wonderful, interactive play book that you can do together. Gratitude for Kids offers a creative practice that is also healing. This is especially important during these times in which we live.

Let’s all do what we can to share more gratitude (and beauty), one child at a time.

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Stay informed and inspired with the best of the week in Los Angeles, etc. and more ...

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