Giving Thanks

For many of us today, it is too easy to fall into despair, dejection, and pessimism.  Whether it’s the current political climate, struggles with work, or stress with family around the holidays, we can find ourselves focusing our attention on all that is wrong.  And when I let myself do that, I notice that I am more tired, I am less inspired and motivated, and I am grumpier.  When my mind is focused on my stress, anxiety, or problems then I become more lethargic and unhappy.

Now, of course we cannot ignore those things that are causing us stress.  But all too often we use this as an excuse to justify our fixation.  There is a difference between taking the challenges in life seriously and being overwhelmed with the problems in life.  And that difference has to do with perspective.  We lose our perspective on life when we become consumed with our anxieties and stress.  And one of the key ways we restore perspective is to practice gratitude, or thanks giving.

Since reading The Dalai Lama’s & Desmond Tutu’s book The Book of Joy this summer, I have been amazed at the power of gratitude in my own life.  Spending just five minutes noticing five things that I am grateful for this day lifts my mood, gives me energy again, and helps me have more perspective on the issues and problems I am facing.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’ve still had plenty of days where nothing seems to go right, I’m disappointed in myself, and everything seems insurmountable.  Those are the days I have needed my gratitude practice the most, and of course those are the days that it has been most difficult to maintain that practice.  Isn’t that how it always goes?  The moments we need something the most are the moments where it is the hardest to do.

And so on those days where things feel really out of control, I’ve had to slow down and notice the smallest things.  Maybe it was the delicious meal I had to scarf down between meetings, but it was still delicious.  Or maybe it was that short, brief, smile I got from a colleague that communicated “I know how you feel.”  Or maybe it was just the sound of wind chimes, or the fact that I get to sleep indoors tonight, or the few moments while watching TV that I didn’t have to think about my problems.  While all of these are banal, ordinary, small things, by spending time giving thanks for them they become real sustenance in the struggle to keep addressing my problems and life’s challenges.

You’re not running a 50 meter sprint, you’re running a marathon.  And to do a marathon well you need to pace yourself, and find strength, encouragement, and sustenance along the journey.  Spending time being grateful for even the small things in life will help you keep going.

November 29, 2017Permalink
Free Practice Group

Twice a month I lead a free Compassionate Communication Practice Group. Open to those new and advanced students. We meet on the First and Third Monday of the month at 6 pm. We gather at 640 Hawthorn Lane in classroom 8. Classrooms are behind the church and to the left, next to the parking lot. Practice Group sessions usually run for 2 hours.

The next one will be on July 6th at 6 pm.