Gratitude is one of our unfortunately-infrequent and yet most important and spiritually uplifting emotions.
When we worry about what we do not have, we forget and thus lose all the wonderful things we do have. Ken Keyes calls this “The mosquito effect”. If there are ten mosquitoes in a room, and we manage to eliminate nine of them, we will still be annoyed by the remaining one. If we have ten problems and solve nine of them, rather than being grateful for the nine solutions, we worry about the remaining problem. Or if we own ten objects and lose one of them, rather than being grateful for and enjoying the remaining nine, we will be discontent about the one we have lost. If we have ten desires and fulfill nine, we will focus on the one which has not yet been fulfilled.
We have so much to be grateful for and yet gratitude is a rarely felt emotion. This is especially true if we compare our lives with 80% of those sharing the planet with us. We would all benefit by realizing how blessed our lives are. Sharing such positive feelings of appreciation and gratitude and joy also enrichen and beautify our environment and the lives of those around us.
A simple technique is to spend a few minutes each day thinking of or listing those aspects of our lives which we could be grateful for. Even the most taken for granted simplicities of life such as running water, a warm home, friends and family can be sources of joy when seen through such eyes.
Some have even developed the ability to feel grateful for ordinarily unpleasant experiences and even for injustices because they often offer us the opportunity to develop inner strength and deep insight into ourselves and life itself.
What could we feel grateful for?
* The sun which warms our bodies and manifests food for our sustenance.
* All foods, fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and beans which give pleasure to our taste and vitality to our bodies.
* For the animals the cows, sheep and goats who give us their milk.
* For all others animals who our companions on this earth.
* The beauty of nature around us; the trees, grass, the blue of the sky, the sea and rivers in which we bathe and are refreshed.
* The water we drink and which we use to clean our bodies, clothing and homes.
* Our comfortable homes that protect us from the extremes of nature – not all beings have such comfort as we.
* Our clothing which protects and warms us.
* The air we breathe which gives us life force and joy.
* For our families whom we love and who love us.
* For all our friends and relatives, and even the strangers, who we are eventually befriending.
* And even for those who test us and teach us many lessons and strengthen our character.
* For books, magazines and films which inform us.
* For all the sciences, philosophies, religions and psychology which help us to understand ourselves and the world around us.
* For all the teachers and spiritual guides who show us our way – who we are and can become.
* For the telephone and internet which make communication so easy and unite us.
* For cars, trains, boats and airplanes, which help us learn and grow into one world family.
* For all the machinery and technology which liberate our time and energy for greater mental and spiritual development.
* For the farmers who work to provide us with food.
* For all professions as each plays his and her part in our social fabric.
* For the rain and all the conditions which make the food possible.
* For these bodies and all their capabilities of perceiving and acting so that we may enjoy and participate in this lovely world.
* The ability to hear, see, taste, smell and feel.
* The ability to walk, run, dance and work.
* The opportunity to rest, relax, sleep, dream and fantasize.
* The ability to create, sing, whistle, hum, write, draw and to solve problems.
* The ability to think, wonder about life and learn about life and after life.
* The various systems of exercises and techniques that keep our bodies healthy and our minds clear.
* For meditation, contemplation and prayer.
* For spiritual wisdom which helps us view life in a more objective and relaxed way.
* For the inclination to improve ourselves to become better human beings.
* For the will power with which we transcend our lower nature and mature into beings of love, light and wisdom.
* For the discontentment and problems of life through which we are tested and grow.
* For difficult situations and difficult people, who are opportunities for us to enable our inner strength and self-confidence.
* For our fellow seekers of a better life for all.
* For life and also for death, through which we learn the meaning of love.
* For the death of the loved ones which teaches us to become more spiritually centered, more concentrated on the soul rather than the body.
* For the death of our own body which reminds us of our temporary physical nature and immortal spiritual nature.
* For our gain and loss, pleasure and pain, joy and depression so that we may eventually learn to transcend them in our realization of our inner bliss.
* For “good” and also for “evil” which enable our discrimination, wisdom and love.
* For Jesus Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, Krishna, Rama and all the prophets and sages who bring messages of truth, love and peace.
* For our awareness of the divine within all beings and actually at the very center, the reality, the foundation of our being.
* For the desire to merge once again with the divine.
* And, finally, for the ability to be thankful.
A SIMPLE PRAYER BY ST. FRANCIS
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred… let me sow love.
Where there is injury… pardon.
Where there is discord… unity.
Where there is doubt… faith.
Where there is error… truth.
Where there is despair… hope.
Where there is sadness… joy.
Where there is darkness… light.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek.
To be consoled, as to console.
To be understood… as to understand.
To be loved… as to love.
It is in giving… that we receive.
It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned.
It is in dying … that we are born
to eternal life.