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Living in Gratitude

As Christmas approaches, and the bad news continues to swirl all around me – threats to the earth, peace, social justice, and our democracy – I’m reminded again of the benefits of integrating a regular gratitude practice into my life.  This not only makes sense to me on an intuitive level, research demonstrates significant benefits to our minds, bodies, and spirits (for more details you might want to read, “Giving Thanks: The Effects of Joy and Gratitude on the Human Body” ) of practicing gratitude.

Episcopal priest and author, Matthew Fox, shares that gratitude is at the heart of his spirituality. Roman Catholic theologian, David Steindl-Rast, advises that gratitude is the primary source of our happiness, and Greek Philosopher, Epictetus, maintains that gratitude is a characteristic of wisdom.

And then there’s my own experience.  When I practice gratitude on a daily basis I not only feel better, I believe that I become a better person. I’m more generous, appreciative, peaceful, and more easily open to wonder and awe. When my practice slips away, it’s not long before I notice the difference. I’m much more likely to be vulnerable to resentment, discontentment, and anxiety. I tend to worry more and sleep less; hoard more and give less; work more and delight less.

Melodie Beattie observed, “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 turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

My life is fuller when I consciously practice gratitude.  I’m touched by so much beauty, kindness, simple pleasures, and so very many blessings that I might have otherwise overlooked had my heart not been sufficiently opened up to receive them.

May you open your own heart to fully receive the blessings of this season… 

Gratitude Resources

Gratefulness.org

Spirituality & Practice: Gratitude

Highlights from the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness 


journal at wayne

“To heal is to make whole: to unify what was separate, broken in pieces.  For many women, the journal offers one place in their lives where, literally and symbolically, all the pieces of themselves finally come together and they can be whole.” 

Marlene A. Schiwy, “A Voice of Her Own”

Last night someone wrote to me about a post I’d written at my former blog,  Psychotherapy, Creativity, Spirituality and Healing .  I’d forgotten about that blog and my  late night visit brought back so many sweet memories, forgotten or neglected wisdom, and old heartaches now viewed with a different, generally clearer lens.  Spending time among words that I’d shared so long ago reminded me once again of how important writing can be for providing continuity and perspective, and has prompted me to begin adding many of those old posts to this blog (to join pieces of my past with my present).  It also renewed my commitment to make time start to start writing here again.  I’m hoping too that I can encourage you to do your own writing, and so I plan on sharing writing prompts with you from time to time.  I imagine that you’re busier than you might want to be already and will very likely struggle to find time to sit and reflect, or to indulge your creative side, but I hope that you do.  I know that it will be worth it even if you’re not convinced yet.

“Hello old friend.  Sure is nice to see you once again… “

 

For a remarkable seventy five years the Harvard Study of Adult Development closely followed the lives of 724 men (it’s regrettable that women weren’t included in the study)  in order to determine (among other things) what keeps us “happy and healthy as we go through life.”

In an article Posted today by The Daily Good entitled, ‘What Makes a Good Life‘ which summarized the results of the study ,  Robert Waldinger shares  that the primary lesson that came out of the “tens of thousands of pages of information”generated by the study of these individual’s lives was that it’s not fame and fortune that makes people happy and healthy but rather,  “good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

In ‘Decoding Keys to a Healthy Life,’ Alvin Powell shared Robert Waldinger’s (director of the study) observation,  “We used to think that if you had relatives who lived to a ripe old age, that the following  was the best predictor of a long life…It turns out that the lifestyle choices people make in midlife are a more important predictor of how long you live.”

In light of the above findings, it would seem that the following questions might be really important to ask ourselves.   “How will  the choices I’m making now impact my future health and happiness?  Am I  exercising enough?  How am I managing stress?  Am I making healthy food choices?  Am I cultivating a spiritual life?  And most importantly it would seem,  am I spending enough quality time with friends and family?

What wisdom might your answers to these questions offer you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parker Palmer  urges us to fall deeply and madly in love with our lives, and offers some significant wisdom  on how to best live them.

Here’s a small taste:

“…be passionate, fall madly in love with life. Be passionate about some part of the natural and/or human worlds and take risks on its behalf, no matter how vulnerable they make you. No one ever died saying, “I’m sure glad for the self-centered, self-serving and self-protective life I lived.”

I made a spontaneous decision to give folks a short tour of SagePlace.  This is an unedited video and so please overlook the many less than perfect moments.  I wanted it to be authentic vs. polished.

In a TED Talk Jon Jandai offers some significant food for thought regarding what truly matters and how we complicate our lives unnecessarily.

Here’s an example of his simple wisdom, Before I thought that stupid people like me … cannot have a house… because people who are cleverer than me and get a job need to work for 30 years to have a house. But for me, who cannot finish university, how can I have a house. It’s hopeless for people who have low education like me. But when I start to do earthen buildings, it’s so easy! I spent two hours per day… and in 3 months I have a house. A friend who was the most clever in the class he has a house too but he has to be in debt for 30 years, so compared to him I have 29 years and 9 months of free time. I feel life is so easy.” 

And here’s another, “I feel like now is the most uncivilized era of humans on this Earth.  We have so many people who finish university, we have so many universities on the Earth.  We have so many clever people on this Earth.  But, life is harder and harder.  We make it hard for whom?  We work hard for whom right now?”

Jandai’s message resonates with me as I seriously consider taking the next step towards living more simply and consciously.

The video above is an excerpt from a talk  by Robert Emmons,   professor of psychology at the University of California, and author of “Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude can Make you Happier.”

Emmons observes, ” Gratitude is not easy. It’s not something that comes naturally, but has to be worked at. It has to be cultivated. It goes far beyond saying ‘thank you.’ It’s deeper than that; it can be a really fundamental way of viewing life, an orientation toward life itself.”

Emmons asserts that gratitude changes lives.  My own experience has certainly supported his assertion.  The more I practice gratitude, the more resilient and optimistic I feel.  How are you at experiencing gratitude?  Want to get better at it?

Following are some resources that you might find helpful.

Enhance Happiness and Health

Six Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

A Practical Guide to Gratitude

A Meditation for Cultivating Gratitude

Gratitude as a Spiritual Practice