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Getting Gratitude

tonight, someone in my van pool started a conversation about her practice of gratitude and how her counselor had recommended she write down 10 things she was grateful for….when she was in a really down period. she grumbled, thought it was impossible, but did it. what she learned was that she could do it. shift happens. she continues to write these lists of 10 and selects one to write about each day. she really gets gratitude, but she didn’t get it until her counselor gave her the gratitude assignment.

another rider thought that 10 things to be grateful for was a lot to list. "10 things! i don’t know. that’s a lot." i mentioned that i used to have a regular practice of thinking of 110 things each night before going to sleep. i have a beaded thingie with 110 small beads on it. coming up with 110 things seemed like a challenge at the time ….but i really wanted to get the gratitude thing. turns out, 110 was a snap. so easy. think about it. are you grateful that the sun comes up every morning and that it warms your skin on a cold day? are you grateful that the wind brings wonderful smells to you from the bakery? are you grateful that your old dog is still alive and sleeping beside you? are you grateful that you have food? and that you can walk, and see, and hear (hopefully), and that you have a decent iq, and that your friends still speak to you even when you’ve been a butt head, and that you grew up in your particular dysfunctional family rather than that other dysfunctional family, or that only several thousand people have died in the "war" rather than tens of thousands, or that your brother is finally speaking to you again, or that you can poop and pee on your own….in the toilet, and that you have a fan when you’re hot, and that you have a car and clothes and pots of flowers, and a house that protects you from the wind and heat and rain and thiefs?

oh my goodness, there’s so much more than 110 things to be grateful for. do you have a great bed, a soft comforter, a glass of clean water, a bowl of popcorn, a great DVD to watch, a bowl of lentil soup, a life-changing book, a bank account, an income, a spiritual community, a cat on your lap, a kid in the stroller, a view from your window, a check book, a plant on your desk that your co-workers gave you, a computer, a palm pilot, a cell phone, a wardrobe.

maybe we have too much to be grateful for. i read when mother theresa died that she had five possessions to her name: a wooden bowl and spoon, a bible and two saris. i paused to count that i had 5 phones. it seems that there are three reasons why we don’t get gratitude:

1. we have way too much and are spoiled.

2. nobody has modeled gratitude for us….we don’t know how it works.

3. we believe that if we are not happy, there is nothing to be grateful for. being happy happens after we become grateful.

when life isn’t going our way (the computer crashes, somebody doesn’t return our call, we get a negative performance appraisal, the bills need to be paid, we have a headache, somebody is rude to us and other endless life events), we focus on the negative event which colors our world view. we can’t see that there is anything to be grateful for. when we get a raise, a pat on the back, find money, eat a sundae, suddenly we feel grateful or at least are receptive to the idea of gratitude if it comes up.

what a gift that it came up in the van pool today. the person who thought 10 things seemed like a lot of things to list had an opportunity to get gratitude. she pulled out a piece of paper and made her list. the power of one–the one who brought up the idea, gave directions for how she practiced gratitude, and voila, an opportunity to get gratitude. and an opportunity to think and write about it so that others might get gratitude.

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