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#41 — Gratitude

Greetings Philosophers!

I am writing this on Thanksgiving evening so it seems appropriate to write about gratitude.

The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote: “Gratitude is the wine for your soul. Go on. Get drunk!” Of course, as a Muslim, he did not drink alcohol. So, what did he mean?

A monk I was lucky enough to meet a few times wrote a book called Gratefulness: The Heart of Prayer.

All traditions I have studied have the practice of gratitude at their heart. What is it about being grateful that is so important?

I think the key is not simply noticing when good things happen to us (although that in itself is an important mindfulness activity). I think it is referring to a conscious effort we need to make. One does not need to pay attention to one’s thoughts for very long to see that they are almost a constant stream of negativity — judgements about ourselves and other people.

These thoughts bring us down, make us sad, and lower the quality of our life. So, I think gratitude is a conscious decision to focus on the positive and find the goodness in the difficult roads so many of us walk.

Terrence McKenna wrote: "Our world is in crisis because of the absence of consciousness." Being grateful is one way to bring more consciousness into our lives and into our world. It is a gift we give ourselves. And this gift spreads out to others. Why? I think gratitude is as contagious as complaining is.

To practice gratitude, especially when we don’t feel like it — especially then — is like forcing ourselves to exercise when we don’t feel like it. For example, we set a goal to go jogging a few days a week. If you have ever done this, you will notice that the good chemicals don’t start flowing until you have been running for a while. Starting can be difficult, but then running becomes its own reward.

So, it becomes one measure of our maturity to see if we can force ourselves to take a few minutes to be consciously grateful each day. We can do simple things like noticing the sun on our faces, to sending someone a text message saying we are grateful that they are a part of our lives, to keeping a journal. I have seen people take the 30 day challenge to post on social media one different thing they are grateful for each day. I would love to see social media used to spread some goodness around and avoid some of the trivia that I mostly associate with its use.

A music hall that I have seen literally hundreds of concerts at, has recently closed. I am sad about this. It was a big part of our (Cheryl and me) lives for nearly ten years. But what I found so moving was how many people did not complain about it, but instead posted notes of gratitude, sharing their favorite memories, photographs and gratitude for the community of music lovers that also became good friends. So, even a sad event can give rise to a great sense of thankfulness for all of the many happy times we shared the joy of music and dancing together — really with one another.

What are you grateful for? Speak and write it out! It will transform your life. But only if you practice it every day.

So, if you have read this far, please know that I am grateful that you are in my life. I love teaching because I have the opportunity to try and love so many people every semester/quarter. It has made my life fulfilling. And in this day and age, when so many complain about their work (or lack thereof), I get to go to work with a smile on my face!

To Gratitude!


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