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.
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.
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,
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:
- What is good about this?
- What can I learn from this situation?
- 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.