Monday, November 22, 2010

Living a Life of Gratitude

During these unstable economic times it is useful to find something else to focus on. By thinking about the troubles we are facing day by day or the changes we have to make, we may only get more stressed. It is has helped me to pay attention to feeling grateful for what I have. I have written about the Practice of Gratitude before but I thought during the week of Thanksgiving it is very appropriate to look at it again.
To practice gratitude I like to introduce an acronym I have made up in order to remind myself of being in charge of my destiny, not the economy or any political leadership.

G for grace – many of us may have the habit of saying grace before we eat a meal or take a trip. Rather than just making it a habit of repeating the same words, we can be aware of the fact that a prayer or blessing actually raises the vibration of our food, puts us in a better mood and lets us appreciate our meal and where it came from.

R for relax – I sit for a few minutes; take a few deep breaths; reflect on my day, and let go of all my worries. Stress is the number one problem for health and other disruptions of life. 

A for acceptance – there is something about accepting things the way they are. We can fret over a rainy day or a traffic jam or we can just accept it, enjoy the growing grass or listen to some inspirational message while sitting in traffic. In accepting our life the way it is we take responsibility for our existence and make the best of each moment, living in the present moment. By accepting ourselves and others we become open for whatever happens.

A grateful heart, then, comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives. This requires conscious effort—at least until we have truly learned and cultivated an attitude of gratitude. Often we feel grateful and intend to express our thanks but forget to do so or just don’t get around to it. Someone has said that ‘feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.'"
~ T.S. Monson

T for thank you – thank you is one of the first social rules we teach our children. It feels good when we say thank you to the grocery cashier or the man opening the door for us? In the U.S.A. we even set aside a day for Thanksgiving. I just recently learned about how to say thank you without words: 
~~ make the sign waving your hand from your heart or watch the video on the gratitude campaign.

I for increase - there have been noted research by scientists to tell us that being grateful can increase our health, prosperity, peace of mind and make us more altruistic.

T for thinking – with a little help and being more conscious we can affirm a more positive attitude. Gratitude and attitude rime, don’t they? Scientists teach us that our thoughts form our emotions, and that we can change them?

"Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings."
~ William Arthur Ward (1921-1994, Writer)

U for universal law – there is a famous quote which says: Gratitude is not only the greatest virtue but it is the parent of all others. One of the universal laws impacting gratitude is the law of attraction or sowing and reaping. The law of attraction states that we are like a magnet. Expressing gratitude for any situation projects a magnetic force that draws to us more of what we are grateful for. More specifically, it’s the resonance that you project at the energetic level through your thoughts, beliefs and emotions that you will attract and receive. It’s not what you need or what you want, but the kind of vibrations you give out. You could call that the boomerang effect.

D for deity or divine – I believe it is only fair to say “thank you” to our creator for giving us life and the opportunity for growth. After all we live in a beautiful universe which is abundant.

E for emotion – when I started my research for this talk I learned that gratitude is an emotion. Now, I could tell you all about Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough who are two of the leading American psychologists who investigated the benefit of gratitude. They describe gratitude as personality strength—the ability to be keenly aware of the good things that happen to you and never take them for granted.

But rather than focusing on the intellectual approach to reach gratitude, I like to share with you how I practice gratitude. Every night before going to bed I sit for a while, relaxing, reflecting on my day, and I think of all the things and events I am grateful for. Sometimes, I have to force myself to do it because I don’t “feel” grateful. Then, I think of people who have real predicaments like the flood victims in Pakistan, or hurricane victims in Haiti. Or someone who is sick or just is having a hard time. I don’t stop until I get this feeling of gratitude, it always comes. When I get that mushy feeling inside my chest I dwell on it for a while and then give thanks for it. Then, I am ready for bed. I repeat the same in the morning before getting up, which puts me in a better mood.

"When we feel true gratitude, whether toward particular people or toward life, loving kindness will flow from us naturally.  When we connect with another person through gratitude, the barriers that separate begin to melt." 
~ Joseph Goldstein ~ One Dharma

There are many more practices available like writing a gratitude journal, making a list, or expressing gratitude to someone. Whatever your practices may be, I like to encourage all of you to try it out. It may help you too in these trying economic times.

I want to finish by saying: the more grateful you are, the less you focus on the negative circumstances in your life.


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