Every year, during this week, here in North America, our nation turns our attention toward one word- thanksgiving. While there is a lot to unpack around the origins of this holiday, I'd like instead to turn the awareness toward the concept of gratitude.
Sensei Roemke has a reputation as being "unreasonably happy." I'm going to let you in on a secret behind this happiness...gratitude.
In my martial arts training journey, I've been in a lot of classes in various disciplines, in a lot of dojos. I can still remember the day at Pathways Dojo when we lined up to bow in that set this dojo apart from all of my previous experiences. Before doing our usual bow-in opening, Sensei Roemke turned to us and said,
"What are you grateful for?!"
You could see the collective flinch in the group as everyone snapped to attention, caught off guard somewhat by this question. Then, one by one going down the line up, each of us took a moment to voice something important in our lives. I loved it! I had never been in a dojo that started classes this way.
Since then, I've seen Sensei Roemke do this many, many times, in classes with kids and adults, virtually with our online PNT classes, and even with parents in the bleachers watching classes. It's no longer a surprise. I've watched him do this at checkout lines in grocery stores, to random people on the street, and to gatherings of large groups for classes he is about to teach.
At Pathways Dojo, we start all of our staff meetings this way. And, if we don't, something feels off. It's almost a game now to see who can ambush the others first by asking..."What are you grateful for?"
But what does this have to do with martial arts training?
But I'll let Sensei Roemke tell you himself. Check his video below where he dives into the mindset of gratitude.
I'll let you in on a little gratitude awareness secret..gratitude is about more than just being thankful. It's about an itch for storytelling.
We all have an itch for sitting and listening to a story being told. This goes far back to our ancestors who told stories by the fire, under the stars. But, each of us also has a strong itch to share the stories that we experience. If you listen carefully to people sharing gratitude, you will often hear headlines for stories that are itching to be told and heard.
If you go back to Mark's video above, did you catch his gratitude story headline? He said...
"I'm grateful that I'm alive because I almost died."
Wait, hold on, what!!! Back up there...some of you who know Sensei have heard him tell his story of almost dying.
Gratitude can be an invitation to share deeper stories, and in the process connect more deeply to each other. It's also an opportunity to connect more deeply to our inner selves. When we tell our own stories, it opens up deeper levels of learning about ourselves, and the natural world around us.
So, as many of us head into this holiday in North America, I invite you to become the gratitude ambush ninja that Sensei Roemke embodies. Ambush a random person with this questions, or your friends and family and watch what unfolds.