What is your attitude on gratitude?
Most mornings I start the day by singing a prayer. The prayer is both in appreciation for the new day and a welcome to all of my supports– physical and spiritual. I was teaching the song to a group one time and realized that 90% of the song is a “Thank you” phrase. Reflecting on this, I realized that, throughout the day 90% of my communication to Spirit and prayer is gratitude. Only the final 10%, is me asking for healing for myself or someone else.
Meister Eckhart once suggested that if the only prayer we ever said was “thank you,” that would suffice.
Attitude on gratitude
I started to think that this is how I could be with everyone I meet. 90% of my communication with my children, my husband, my coworkers, my clients, my friends, in fact, all sentient beings, could be acknowledgment and appreciation. Only the last 10% could be planning, chit chat and asking something from them. That means with someone like my husband, with whom I have lots of planning, updating and coordinating to keep up with the busy schedule of our family, I have to increase the amount of gratitude and acknowledgment to match. If the 10% is bigger, the 90% increases proportionally.
Wouldn’t it be nice if someone communicated with you this way? Well, come hang out with me, because this is my new attitude on gratitude during this holiday season.
Our Kung Fu word of the month is “generosity”. It has made me remember a study in Japan that I read about in Eric Weiner’s The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World. (Awesome book!) The study asked a control group not to do anything else different, but to each day write down those things that they did for someone else. They were not to try to do things, but just to write them down if they had. The group who did this reported an increase in happiness by a significant amount. This can’t help to make you pause about the effects on our healing when we do things for others.
Do for others
While working with people who have experienced trauma I understand that by contributing to others on the account of that trauma gives meaning to the trauma beyond victim-hood. For example if a rape victim could help other rape victims, it creates a place where someone could stand up and take action rather than be a victim. This action, having noticeable, expressed, visible affect on another’s life can be incredibly healing.
People who have experienced trauma in their lives often experience a worthlessness that is incredibly pervasive in controlling their psyche and effecting their view of themselves. Seeing their worth through someone’s eyes that they have made a difference to can be powerful in countering this feeling of worthlessness.
In Narrative Therapy, we use practices of acknowledging called definitional ceremonies. They are the much more powerful in helping people get to a new identity that any other therapeutic practice.
Michael White took the phrase “Definitional Ceremonies” from anthropologist Barbara Myeroff. They are called definitional ceremonies, because they are specifically meant to celebrate a new self definition and they are practices of rich acknowledgment and appreciate of one’s story and of one’s self. The witness describe how the client at the center of the ceremony changed their (the witness’s) life for the better. The result is that people’s definition of themselves change to “worthy,” “helpful,” “compassionate,” “kind,” rather than “worthless,” “stupid,” “useless,” etc.
What are you grateful for?
Each night we reflect on the day and write down two things we are grateful for. She points out, as I do, that writing them down gives them some power and energy. She says: “When my list is down on paper I can visually see all that I’m grateful for. Having this physical manifestation of my gratitude practice right in front of me makes it more accessible. I no longer need to rely on my inward thinking thoughts—it’s right there!”
Try it, even for a week, but longer if you can. Each night, write down 2 or more things you are grateful for as well as anything you did for someone else that day. I guarantee that things will shift in your life, in big and small ways. You will start to see the world with different eyes. Your anxiety will go down. The glass will always half full instead of half empty. Or all full. And you will feel happier.
I also like Kristen Lamb’s newest blog post An Attitude on Gratitude
What is your attitude on gratitude?