April 25, 2012
Rise And Soul
We were raised being told to be grateful for what we have. Many of us were even guided to consider others who are less fortunate–our parents citing those without food, homes, water–often in countries far and away. This method never really did work for me personally as a child. It never promoted a genuine consideration and understanding of the situations of others or my relative state of abundance. If anything, it just served as a means to quiet my complaints and perhaps instill a bit of guilt in the process.
As children, we generally don’t have a deep awareness of what we are saying (we just want something that we don’t have or don’t want what we do have), yet the response we get from adults doesn’t meet our need for greater awareness of our complaints or of what there is to be grateful for. Perhaps this is one reason why our complaining continues into adulthood.
There is of course immense value in taking a look around to see what you are grateful for, not so much with the aim of putting a stop to complaining but with the hope to find the truth of our lives–that we are indeed supported in numerous and countless ways. In discovering and experiencing that truth, we find freedom. This, to me, is a gift worth giving to a child or any human being.
So what can we do? It’s been quite simple for me. When I want to know the truth of how I am supported, I create a list of all the things I am grateful for (known by many as the Gratitude List). There are no limits to my list. It can include the chair I’m sitting in, the dishes I eat off of, the tea I’m drinking, the toothpaste I brush my teeth with, the places I’ve been, the way people interact with me (their smile, their words, their gestures), the presence of the people themselves, the plants in my house, the nature outside, sidewalks, streets, books to read, the coolness or warmth of the air, and I could go on and on…
How wonderful would it be to create such lists with our children…I have to imagine that the impact of this would be far greater than simply reciting the often unhelpful words we heard as kids.
And as adults, when we are feeling particularly stuck in a sense of lack and focused on what we don’t have, taking a moment of quiet for ourselves to generate such a list can return us to a state of gratitude and its accompanying freedom. Isn’t that what we truly want?