"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy." Brother David Steindl-Rast

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ranting About Giving Thanks

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy for putting up our Christmas tree and holiday lights for us. I am grateful to enjoy these soft lights sitting next to him this morning.

But I also have a bone to pick today. Not with my husband. With this whole idea of focusing on gratitude in November and around Thanksgiving. Allow a brief rant from me. I would be the first to say some gratitude is better than no gratitude. Like exercise and eating right, however, if we want the benefits of gratefulness, we must apply the effort regularly.

If I only focus on gratitude this time of the year I will be in big trouble. There is too much other time for the negativity and self-pity to creep back in and take over. Granted, we come by this naturally. In earlier times as humans, we had to try to stay alive by being on the lookout for harm and dangerous creatures. As neuropsycholgist Dr. Rick Hanson says in his book Buddha's Brain, "Our brains are like velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive."

It's called "negativity bias" and it is probably why some scoff at "an attitude of gratitude" and consider being grateful day in and day out as unrealistic and pollyannish. The gratefulness I am talking about and practicing is not the fluffy stuff that scoffers scoff at.

The gratefulness I work to embrace and encourage is the stuff Buddha himself spoke of:  "Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little at least we didn't get sick, and it we got sick, at least we didn't die; so let us all be thankful."

It is the gratitude found in the present moment, when we pause to consider the gifts we are surrounded by. As simple as the air we breathe. As profound as the love we feel for our spouse. As simple as a cup of coffee. As profound as love of self once thought unattainable.

I love the holiday of Thanksgiving. It has always been one of my favorites. I liked the traditions, my mom's turkey and dressing for example, growing up. Anymore though, Thanksgiving practically gets lost in the merchandising wars between Halloween and Christmas. Gratitude can't and shouldn't be bought, but all the focus on "stuff" and Black Friday and the perfect gifts is sucking the very life out of Thanksgiving.

Every day is a day for giving thanks. Every day is a day for a grateful mindset.

The perfect gift is to be perfectly present in this moment. With our own thoughts or with the person or persons we are sharing the moment with. Just for now. Just for today.  Every day.  Can I be perfectly present all the time? Heck no. Can I aspire to be more present than absent in the now? Heck yes. Does it make a difference? Absolutely! Beyond any measure. More on that tomorrow.

6 comments:

  1. I feel exactly as you do. Is it because we have faced our mortality? I wake up every morning 365 days a year, grateful to be alive. As a nurse, I have seen so many not survive cancer. I try but I am so far from perfect! However, I am grateful. You put it so well. Thank you.

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    1. Facing mortality is an awakening for sure. "Better older than deader" sounds trite, but it truly is at the heart of gratitude for me. Thanks Lana.

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  2. Well said. Keep up your gratitude and model for others as you've been doing for years Lisa. You're making a difference with this blog. Have a Happy Thanksgiving too!

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    1. I think about the connection we have, via our efforts to share gratefulness, and I smile when I see people I know personally who contribute on your "Daily Gratitudes" page. Thanks Steve!

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    2. And I'm grateful to see them too as it reminds me of how interconnected we are.

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