Setting the Table with Gratitude

The past few months of life during the Covid-19 pandemic have been a journey, amirite? It feels like life as we know it has come and gone — we’ve been forced to reckon with the way we exist in the world, and not only has the resilience of our communities been tested, but the resilience of our individual selves as well. I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a STRUGGLE. As someone who typically bases their entire Shabbat practice on ritual surrounding gratitude, I’ve found that taking the time to create moments of reflection around gratitude (for myself and for others) hasn’t come as naturally. Being that I’m a licensed and board certified Art Therapist, you’d think that would be automatic, right? Not exactly. 

When times are really, really tough, the ease of which we exist “normally” goes out the window — the brain can go into survival mode, and the chemicals in the brain (called neurotransmitters) create a “trauma response”, even as a reaction to regular, day-to-day, mundane tasks. If you’ve been feeling out of whack and not yourself, consider the possibility that your body + brain are on auto-pilot or in survival mode. It can be hard to make time for yourself and/or Shabbat, especially when you’re in survival mode, and that is a-ok! It is a normal reaction to an abnormal circumstance.

After working for OneTable for nearly three years, I’ve come to realize that Shabbat doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be stressful. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming to prepare. But it should be intentional. What does that even mean? In Judaism, the practice of intention is called kavanah, and it’s all about meaning-making. It’s about thinking before your dinner about how you want to feel, and how you want your guests to feel. What kind of space are you trying to create? How can your decor and food and conversation all contribute to that space? For me, gratitude is IT. 

In these moments of uncertainty, framing your Shabbat practice in gratitude can not only help give you those warm + fuzzies in the moment, but there’s evidence to suggest that a practice of gratitude can rewire your brain and provide long term benefits. It’s my hope that these resources will empower you to create moments of gratitude for yourself in moments of solitude, for your guests in moments of community, and will give you permission to explore Shabbat as a means of self-care. 

Wishing you many restorative Shabbat moments ahead,

Lianne from OneTable, M.A. LCAT, ATR-BC

Lianne Sufrin

Lianne is a Creative Arts Therapist, foodie, traveler, and lover of all things Pittsburgh who believes in the power of connecting around the dinner table.


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