Week 3: Gratitude Turns What We Have Into Enough

I open this morning with a story that sets the tone for our third lesson.  Although it doesn’t speak directly to the reality that “gratitude turns what we have into enough”, it lets us know that when things seem at their darkest and we feel empty there are others who have gone through it before us.  This is a story,  not only about a little girl who wants something her mother can’t afford,  but it’s a story about how a life-habit of gratitude begins and about the ripple effect it creates throughout the world.

In the 70s (when I was very young and a Cardiovascular Clinical Specialist), I had the privilege to journey with people who had just had massive heart attacks and/or were undergoing very serious open heart surgery.  I often got to follow them with the cardiologists and I can’t tell you the number of times people expressed deep gratitude for their cardiac event.  Not because the illness was a good thing in itself but because it woke them up to what was really important in their lives.  It often helped (sometimes forced) them to shift their priorities and to recognize what was core to them.  They developed a more balanced life style, exercised more, ate more healthy meals, and knew better than to take their loved ones or their faith for granted.  Time and again I saw something good come out of something very tragic.  At the time of the difficult time, it is hard to see the blessing of it, but if we take the time to reflect back it becomes clear as crystal.

Everyone has something to be grateful about, even in their darker days.  All it takes is to remember Brother David’s teaching about the STOP, LOOK, and GO  process.  As a society our reality is that we don’t stop, we don’t listen. We seem to make being BUSY a sign of honor and worth but, by doing this, we miss the good that is all around us and within us.  Another thing we often do is focus on how fortunate everyone else is.  We see their successes and become filled with jealousy and envy and they, looking at us,  often think we’re the lucky ones.  The invitation Gratitude bestows on us is the gift of contentment, to begin each day believing that all you really need is there for you and acknowledging your confidence in that.  Gratitude takes us there and opens the door and fills us with a keen awareness of how blessed we really are.

I have a gratitude app on my phone.  If I don’t put something in it at 9 PM each evening it beeps and reminds me to do it.  The past six months though I have done something different, instead of just writing 3 things at random for which I’m grateful, I have started to take one past thing for which I’m grateful, one present  thing that happened that day and, believe it or not, one future thing for which I know I’ll be grateful.  At first when I started doing it I thought it wouldn’t last and that it was perhaps a little bit crazy to say thank you for something I don’t have but it has been an amazing gift.  It’s almost as if I come to an event and feel absolutely confident that it will be blest because I already said thank you for it.  For example today I already thanked God for a presentation I have to do tomorrow.  By shifting my gratitude journal from what happens in the present to looking at both the past and the future I have become more confident that God ALWAYS provides for my needs.  I still live in the present moment but I stretch my gratitude in both directions.

Melanie Beattie who has written many books on codependency tells us:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. It turns problems into gifts, failures into successes, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events.  It can turn an existence into a real life, and disconnected situations into important and beneficial lessons.   Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

I know that sounds too good to be true but it is amazingly true.  Next week I’ll prove it to you when we go through some of the research but, for now, just let your heart believe it.  Gratitude gives us an optimistic view of life, not in a sugary way ,but in a very concrete and meaningful way.  No matter what arises in our life approaching it with gratitude opens it wider and more powerfully so that we can see the goodness that lies dormant within it.  There is beautiful well known poem by the Sufi, Rumi, entitled The Guest House.  There is so much wisdom in this poem and it is filled with gratitude wisdom that allows us to see that what we perceive as negative can really be a gift in disguise.  Take some time to read this poem aloud to yourself.  It’s worth the effort even if you’ve heard it a million times.

Rumi poem:  The Guest House

Those last three lines teach me a lot about how to approach each day and how we approach the day determines how the day will be for us.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond. 

Tips on Changing How You Feel:

This is a nine minute clip from Tony Robbins that might give us some insight into how important gratitude can be for us.  It is the one thing that can really change our environment.

 

If Gratitude Is So Good What Makes Us So Ungrateful?

As we mentioned in the first week, gratitude doesn’t come naturally to us.  Obstacles to gratefulness are tangible in our society and often in our personal environment.  There can be a pervasive negativity in our work environment, within our families or within our own hearts.  Changing that negativity to something positive is what gratitude can do if we are willing to choose gratitude..  A sense of entitlement is something that can make us ungrateful.  We think that life owes us something or our families owe us something and so we don’t allow ourselves to recognize that many good things comes to us because of the goodness and generosity of someone else who chooses to be generous.  We can shift our attitude and recognize that no one is responsible for us except ourselves and shifting to a more positive gratitude focus can change the perspective of many things.   Sometimes, we’re simply too distracted or forgetful to take the time to recognize the goodness of others, to recognize the gifts that are everywhere around us.  or perhaps sometimes we’re just unwilling to accept our own dependency on others and so we choose not to notice how supportive they are.  Whatever it is that is causing us to be ungrateful can be changed simply by a choice

What does gratitude, non-gratitude, and ingratitude look like?  And where are you?

Dr. Robert Emmons in his research differentiated between gratitude, non-gratitude, and ingratitude with the following table.  His key definers focus on our ability to see the gift, to acknowledge it, and to return the favor.  It’s never our intention to be ungrateful but it happens to us sometimes just because we don’t take the time to assess where we are and whether or not we need to change our life views to a more open and grateful one.

How to exercise your gratitude muscle?

Gratitude is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it becomes.    If you don’t practice gratitude, its benefits will go unnoticed and our capacity to draw on its gifts will be diminished.  We have to keep exercising it to make it strong.  Gratitude doesn’t cost you anything and it requires only a little time and consistency but it has amazing power to transform our hearts.  Gratitude teaches us to find the silver lining in the clouds that surround us.  Problems can seem huge but if we step back, take a deep breath within every problem there is an opportunity.  I truly believe gratitude is a choice we make every day.    Here’s a list of 22 exercises you can do to strength your gratitude and they are amazing and detailed enough to stimulate your interest.  They are really good and CORE to exercising your gratitude muscle.  Please don’t skip over them.  Since we move from the gratitude course into Lent you might want to look at these as your Lenten practice this year.  And, if you never had a Lenten Practice, you can begin this year.

22 Gratitude Exercises That Will Change Your Life:

I began with a quote from Melanie Beattie and I want to end with one as well.  In her book 52 Weeks of Conscious Contact (p. 34) she says:  “Gratitude isn’t a tool to manipulate the universe or God. It’s a way to acknowledge our faith that everything happens for a reason even if we don’t know what that reason is. Melody Beattie, 52 Weeks of Conscious Contact    Maybe, just maybe, the life you’ve always wanted is buried deep underneath the one you already have.  Look deeply into what you already have so that you can see it as already more than you could have asked for or imagined.  Use gratitude to help put your life in perspective.  Become fully aware of your blessings!

Here is the wish and prayer of a grateful heart — may it be your prayer:

Deep Peace to You by Shaina Noll

Day 2 of week 3

Who can you tell how important they are to you?  Since we’re so close to Valentine’s day I thought perhaps you’d like to focus on someone who has journeyed with you throughout your life and has always been there for us.  Take some time to remember who that might be for you and as you listen to this song of Bette Midler’s try to think of how you might say THANK YOU to that person.  Perhaps you can focus some time journaling in your gratitude journal for the ways this person has been the wind beneath your wings.

Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler

Day 3 of week 3

Think of an adversity that you are dealing with at the present time and ask yourself three questions:

  1. What is good about this?
  2. What can I learn from this situation?
  3. How can I benefit from this challenge?

Day 4 of week 3

This is a hard one.  Today let’s look at the big “G”.  Our society encourages greed.  Gratitude is the antidote.  Gratitude, the conscious and heartfelt expression of appreciation and thankfulness is the number one best antidote for dissatisfaction.  Greed says I must have more; gratitude counters with I have more than enough.  Greed says my life is pathetic; gratitude says I am so blessed.  Greed steals joy; gratitude restores it.  Authentic and heartfelt gratitude can hush up insatiable desires and negative attitudes.  For what are you greedy?  What effect is it having on your happiness and that of your loved ones.  Want to pull the plug on your greed?  Become a giver.  Giving opens the door to God’s blessings and your eyes to see the big picture.  It allows us to view the world through new eyes of compassion.  Giving is an outward expression of a personal affirmation that no matter how bleak your situation may appear, you really do have enough

 Day 5 of Week 3

It’s Sunday, can you make this slide show your Sabbath prayer and then go outside for a walk and extend the list with your actually senses and your heart of gratitude ? (use on whatever day of the week is your Sabbath)

Day 6 of Week 3

Reread the 22 gratitude exercises and choose one for today:  22 Gratitude Exercises That Will Change Your Life:

Day 7 of Week 3

Today I’d like you to go to this link and read about a classroom assignment that transformed many people:  An Unforgettable Classroom Exercise .  Is there a setting in which you can do something comparable.  If not, perhaps just sending a note to a number of people telling them what you most appreciate about them would do the trick.  It is amazing how transforming it can be to know that someone else appreciates something about you.  Today you’re on a mission to transform someone’s life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20 Responses to Week 3: Gratitude Turns What We Have Into Enough

  1. Marge February 15, 2017 at 7:44 am #

    Loved the video of the little child and the cake. So much here for me to take in. Thank you, Julie, for all the thought you put into this program. I am definitely going to,use the 22 ways to exercise my gratitude muscle as a Lenten practice.

    • Sr. Julia Keegan February 15, 2017 at 7:58 am #

      Thanks Marge. Those 22 ways to exercise gratitude are powerful. They can transform us!

  2. Barb Lucas February 16, 2017 at 8:59 pm #

    Julie, I shared Wed. utubes and readings with one of our men here at Assisi House.
    All these wonderful inspirational videos as well as your own sincere reflection is truly
    a gift, Julie. God pours so much winsdom and inspiration into your beautiful soul and
    heart and you GIVE IT ALL AWAY TO US.
    Thanks again; love you
    Barb

  3. Sharon Previtera February 16, 2017 at 9:59 pm #

    Sr. Julie, I am really taken by the theme this week. There is something to be said for having just enough. For many years a recurring prayer of mine to God is that He give me just enough, only what I need. I think that prayer became mine from reading Proverbs :8,9 “…give me neither poverty or riches, provide me only with the food I need, lest being full I deny you saying ‘who is the Lord?’…”. That is not to say I don’t have the feeling of wanting some things I don’t have, but if they would be a distraction for what is truly important, I ask God to keep them from me. And I have come to experience in my life that gratitude does make what we have enough, and that does lead to true happiness (joy)!

    • Sr. Julia Keegan February 17, 2017 at 10:00 am #

      What a prayer!

    • Sharon Previtera February 17, 2017 at 4:12 pm #

      Oops, I left out the chapter from Proverbs, it’s 30.

  4. Sr. Maryaline Zierle February 17, 2017 at 8:45 am #

    Finding this program and following it has been “spot on” for my life in its retirement mode. The video insets delight my emotions and lead me further into true gratitude. What a gem you are, Julia.

  5. Sr. Patricia Wickenheiser February 18, 2017 at 11:20 am #

    The video brought tears to my eyes. It made me think of how much I could give that I don’t. I will certainly be more aware of my surroundings!
    Pat

  6. Sr. Patricia Wickenheiser February 19, 2017 at 8:35 am #

    The video made me even more aware of y “surroundings” especially outside in the warm/beautiful weather!
    Pat

  7. Sr. Patricia Wickenheiser February 19, 2017 at 8:40 am #

    Not sure about the “comment is awaiting moderation”? I did not add that. But I missed the “m” in my was what I was referring to!
    Pat

  8. Marge February 21, 2017 at 6:59 am #

    When I was in a coaching program we were working on Gratitude and our assignment was to write a letter to someone who had been a positive presence in our life. Then we had to find them and read it to them. I chose a friend from when our children were babies. We spent hours together lamenting sick children, squabbling ones, and reluctant school-goers. I had moved away from that neighborhood and only had minimal contact with her these last several years.

    We were not supposed to tell them why we were coming but to arrange a day and time. When I got there and told her I had something I wanted to read to her, I got the first sentence out and began to cry. Every time I tried to read, I would cry harder. She thought I was trying to tell her something horrible had happened to me. I think it took about 15 minutes before I could explain and continue on. Then she had a good cry as I read the words.

    Every time I see or talk to her she reminds me of that day in her kitchen. She said no one had ever said so many kind things about her before. She will always treasure that letter.

  9. Pat Kane February 21, 2017 at 8:23 am #

    Julie,
    This third week has so much to ponder that it could probably last another month. I know that
    I will use much of it during Lent.
    I look forward to what you will include in the 4th week.
    Thank you for using the gifts and talents that the Lord has given to you.
    Love,
    Pat

  10. Patrice Feeney February 21, 2017 at 9:00 am #

    So touched by your sharing and the videos especially the little girl and the cake!

  11. Dorothy L. Freeman February 22, 2017 at 8:50 am #

    Dear Sister Julia,
    It has been such a joy to have received this program from my friend. The work that went into something so beautiful had to be blessed because each session has been such an awesome experience. This third session has truly touch my soul beyond words. I am so looking forward to today’s session and I am saddened that it is the last one. Each session has provided hours of joy in the Lord for me. You and the work you do will be a focus in my prayers so that you may always continue in this glorious work for the Lord. May the Lord bless you and keep you.
    Gratefully, Dorothy

  12. Susan Long February 22, 2017 at 11:46 am #

    This week, like the others, has contained some amazing, serendipitous moments for me. This has been such an enriching experience for me. I wish that more people could engage in activities like this because it truly can change lives. Thank you.

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