Learning Gratitude

Is it possible to learn gratitude or does it come naturally?

Maybe, it’s both.

If I asked you, what do you think you’re likely to answer?

More and more I hear about gratitude as a practice, something you incorporate into your life, so when I read a book recently that focused some attention on this, I decided it was time to see what it meant to me.

While in Maine this past summer on vacation I came across an intriguing book. It’s written by Chris Gentry and is titled, The Little Book of Prosperity. It’s divided into twelve chapters, which I discovered were organized in a very thoughtful progression. It starts with goals and dreams, then taking action and growth. These chapters are followed by self-confidence, gratitude, and positive self-talk. The book escalates into a chapter on master mind (groups) and concludes with positivity, decision, perseverance and giving back. I dutifully read and did the encouraged exercises in order with one exception. I waited until the end to complete my dream collage.

I found each chapter provided a great deal of inspiration and support for my earth adventure. When I arrived at the section about gratitude I decided to proceed slowly.

At the end of the chapter, Chris recommended that readers commit to a daily practice of gratitude for ninety days. He suggested that each morning a journal be kept where you would record at least five things you were grateful for. The items could be anything, big or small, quick or long lasting, it didn’t matter as long as they were true for you.

I decided to embrace this practice and see what sort of change(s) it made in my life. I confess it was difficult to do every day because sometimes I got distracted or felt too busy. I had to remind myself of my commitment and that I would never know the worth of this if I didn’t give it my best shot.

So, in late September 2021 I began keeping track. I noticed that the ‘quality’ of the items I chose varied substantially and their range was extremely wide. As a sometimes overachiever I added some items in the evening and occasionally noted more than the suggested five items. Since I was doing this for me and not as an assignment to be handed in, I felt fine with setting up my own rules.

Several times through the first ninety days I lost steam and considered abandoning the challenge. That only lasted a day or two and I ended up sticking with the program and being very grateful that I did.

When the ninety days was up, it wasn’t even a consideration as to whether to continue or not. I found the practice to be so valuable that I incorporated it in my daily routine. When I’m too rushed, I give myself permission to record my five (or more) items when I get to it, as long as it’s the same day. It’s now been 146 days and I can foresee this continuing far into the future.

Why? And what could be in it for you, if you decide to embrace this as one of your practices?

My simple answer is…A LOT.

The most striking impact this had on me is the change it brought about in the way my day began. It helped set an extremely positive tone. It raised my conscious awareness of how many wonderful things I experience in my life. And although this was a morning practice, my attitudinal shift stayed with me throughout the day. I found myself feeling thankful for so many things I’d previously taken for granted, which added remarkably to my positive outlook on life. It also broadened what I considered valuable and worthwhile and helped make me more aware of expressing gratitude to others.

And I discovered that the changes in me were reflected in who and what I encountered during the day, which was a huge bonus.

If you decide to give this a try, I’d love to know what your experience is like. And if you know or ever stumble across Chris Gentry, please be sure to tell him how grateful I am for his contribution to me and the world.

PS- I did try to reach out to him but wasn’t successful.

Benefit of the Doubt

My six-year-old grandson, Evan, was playing with Legos on the floor and was searching for a particular figure. He described it to me, so I could help him locate it, by saying that it was the one with the smiley face, not the mad face. To him, smiley face equaled, ‘happy’ and mad face equaled, ‘angry’. He wanted the happy one.

I can’t help myself. I asked him, “what do you think the mad faced Lego figure is angry about?

He stared up at me and said, “huh?”

I know it was silly of me to ask, but I wanted to see what he might say. Now I knew for sure. He ought to know better by now that I ask ‘dumb’ questions.

This little episode got me thinking. Do I gauge someone by their facial expression?

Of course, I do. If I see a person with a smiley face, I imagine they are happy. And, if I spot someone with a mad face, I’d assume they are angry. I wonder, how much of the time this is the truth?

There are no doubt a million reasons why someone is displaying one face or another. Then, there is the fact that everyone’s facial expressions change all the time. That makes it even more unlikely that I could make any accurate assumptions about what’s going on inside of them.

I recognize that what they’re experiencing is completely about them, but I also know that I let others emotional states impact me. I let their faces influence me and, if I’m not aware enough, I make some judgements about them or come to conclusions that may be totally incorrect. Once I do this, it becomes all about me.

I try to guard against this tendency by reminding myself that, even on my best days, I can’t possibly know what’s going on inside another person.

And, I ask myself whether I am prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. To hold in my mind that they are doing the best they can under whatever circumstances they’re facing. And, to offer them whatever support I can for their journey.

I’ve come to realize how powerful it is to give someone, ‘the benefit of the doubt’ and how wonderful it is to receive the same. I sometimes think to myself, what would my life would be like if I did this more often? Or better yet, if I set this as one of my defaults, so that when I initially reacted negatively (with a mad face) to something, I stopped and told myself that there is probably a very good reason for whatever was happening, (shifting to a smiley face).

I grant you this takes practice. From my recent attempts, I’ve come to the conclusion that the practice is well worth the time and effort.

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Balance

During the past year I’ve fallen a few times. I know the medical community regards this as a possible indicator of potential problems which should be investigated. But, I think I know the cause.

My feet. They don’t seem to rest firmly and flatly on the ground. My podiatrist says I have neuromas, which is another way of saying that there are nerves running down my feet and between my toes that are irritated and make it hard for me to feel things. And, if I can’t feel or sense with my feet, it’s hard to remain balanced.

Part of me wanted this condition to take care of itself, you know, some kind of magical resolution where I didn’t have to do anything other than wish it so. It didn’t happen. I gave it a pretty good shot, perhaps even a few years.

Sometimes it’s hard to be this honest with myself. And now I’m repeating it to you, which feels both embarrassing and freeing at the same time.

Recently, I told myself enough was enough. I started doing my own balance exercises. Simple. Just pick up one foot and try to balance for as long as I could. I consider my first try to be an epic failure. I could only stay upright for the count of 8, before I tipped over. So sad.

I knew I needed to keep at it, so I practiced every day. Within three weeks I was able to balance for a count of 30 on each foot. Another two weeks went by and the count went to 50, then 75. After another two weeks…90.

Along the way, I realized several things. First, it mattered what I thought would happen. Second, it was considerably easier to maintain my balance when I chose a single point in the distance to focus on. And third, I realized that it would require practice.

Perhaps you remember a child’s toy from years ago. Surprisingly, it’s still around. It’s called a Weeble. They were little people and sort of egg shaped and no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t knock them over. The company’s catchy slogan ran like this, “Weebles wooble, but they don’t fall down”.

I want to be a Weeble.

Sometimes I think to myself how nice it would be to experience my life without falling down or being knocked over. But, that’s not what happens to me. And, I’m guessing it might not be what happens to you.

So, how to stay in balance? Or the companion question, how to regain balance once you’ve been pushed off center?

Many energy healers believe there is a column of light that runs from inside the earth, upwards through the center line of our body and out of the top of our head, connecting all the way to our source (or whatever name we use for god). They call this the ‘hara line’. There is a strong belief that the hara line vibrates with our intentions and contains our life purpose and reason for being here on earth as spiritual beings.

Imagine for a moment that you accepted this as the truth, or at least, part of the truth.

It certainly might explain why it feels so uncomfortable when we are forced out of balance, whether physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. It also might help us understand that as our balance is disturbed, we’re unable to sense the same strength of connection with our life purpose.

Being out of alignment could then turn out to be a powerful message to us, encouraging us to take steps to regain our balance.

There’s so much more to say, so I’m going to do something a little different with this post. I’m going to leave it as a cliff hanger and promise to finish my thoughts about this on my next post (Post #7 on Sunday). I hope you’ll join me.

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