Posted: Sat Aug 18, 2007 4:55 pm Post subject: Gratitude
Four Ways to Give Thanks
These simple tips will help you to cultivate gratitude in your daily life.
By Catherine Price Reprinted from Greater Good Magazine, Vol. IV, Issue 1. Used with permission.
Research in positive psychology has identified several ways that practicing gratitude can boost people's health and happiness. Here are four of these research-tested "gratitude interventions."
1. Write a gratitude letter.
Research by Martin Seligman, Christopher Peterson, and others has shown this one to be particularly effective. Write a letter to a mentor, family member, or some other important person in your life whom you've never properly thanked. Deliver it in person. Read it out loud. Bring tissues.
2. Keep a gratitude journal.
Studies by psychologists Michael McCullough, Robert Emmons, Sonja Lyubomirsky, and others have backed up this exercise, which involves keeping a list of things for which you're grateful—anything from your children or spouse to the beauty of the tree outside your window. Doing so helps you focus on the positive things in your life—a practice that's been shown to increase happiness.
Take the time to notice beauty and pleasures in your daily life. Loyola University psychologist Fred Bryant has shown that savoring positive experiences can heighten your positive responses to them. A key to savoring is what Bryant calls "thanksgiving," or expressing gratitude for the blessings that come your way, large and small.
4. Think outside the box.
It's fairly obvious why we might feel grateful for grandmothers, lovely sunsets, and anything else that has provided comfort or beauty in our lives. But what about thanking the homeless people who come to the shelter where you volunteer? "Individuals who do volunteer work sometimes speak of the benefits they receive from service," writes Robert Emmons in his forthcoming book, Thanks! "Since service to others helped them to find their own inner spirituality, they were grateful for the opportunity to serve." If we look hard enough, he argues, we can find a reason to feel grateful for any relationship—even when someone does us harm, as that person helps us appreciate our own vulnerability. Emmons claims that such highly advanced forms of gratitude may actually increase the level of goodness in the world by inspiring positive acts in ourselves and others.
maradakee eej-jat us meene hae jo meele us upar kare sa(n)tosh;
ghar ghar ddhu(n)ddhataa na feere, apanee eej-jat na khove fok;
jeene rojee deetee so eej-jat bee deve, jo us rojee tum karo aaraam;
jeene us rojee aaraam kee-aa, une eej-jat paaee or baddayaa naam.........219
The dignity of a man lies in that, which when given to him, makes him contented. He does not keep wandering around seeking house after house for his needs. He does not lose his dignity making it null and void. The one who has given the means of livelihood will also give the dignity if you rest in that livelihood. The one who rests in that livelihood, has attained dignity and ennobled his name.
jo tuje meele so bohot kar jaanno, to saaree umar karo baadshaahee;
jeene jo meelaa so thoddaa ghannaa kee-aa, une saaree umar gam-me(n) gamaaee;
sukh dukh beeke ees dunee-aa baazaar, sukh chhodd kaa(n)e dukh mul leaate;
ke aap keesmat nahi raajee rahete, keesamatse adakaa huaa chaahaate.....220
If you receive anything, regard it as a great grace, then for your entire life you will live as a king. The one who receives anything and regards it as little, has indeed spent his entire life complaining. In this shopping street(mall) of the world, happiness and sadness is sold. Abandoning happiness why due you go and buy unhappiness. You are not satisfied with your fate, your desire is more than your fate.
jo koee rojee reejak paayaa, or aafeeyat paayaa apanee jaat;
to pure bhaag usake bhaaee, jo shukar kare vae deen or raat;
ba(n)daa ek chaakarku(n) khaanaa deve, so neet utth usase chaahaave chaakaree;
sarjanhaar to shukar chaahaave, khush aave use shaakaree........221
If anyone has attained the means to his livelihood, and has attained health for himself, then he has perfect fortune brother, if he is grateful day and night. If a creature gives a servant food, then he expects service in return. But the Creator expects thanks, and He becomes happy when you are grateful.
rabakee nyaamat shukar karanaa, jo na kare to beegaadde apanee nyaamat;
ke aap maal vae na sa(n)tokhe, hardam chaahaave maal kasarat;
ke maal muje hove adakeraa, sab dunee-aa maal meele muj;
ees feekarthee na khaave na pehene, ees havaathee umarakaa deevaa jaa-e buj..........222
Be grateful for the boons of the Lord. If a person does not, then his blessings will get corrupt. He is not satisfied with his own wealth, every moment he seeks more wealth. He says, "my wealth should be more, and I should get the wealth of the entire world". With such thoughts he does not eat nor cloth himself. With this wind(of greed), the light of his life is extinguished.
nyaamat paaee ne shukar na kee-aa, to naashukaree nyaamatku(n) le jaayasee;
nyaamat paaee tab na cheteeyaa, to nyaamat gaee peechhe pastaayshee;
haeeyaat duneeyaa nyaamat to fal deve, jo shukar eebaadat keen;
jo e na kare to jeene deetee haeeyaatee, so leve haeeyaatee been fal chheen................223
If one attained the boons and did not thank for them, then the ingratitude will take away the blessings. If one does not take heed when one attains the blessings, then when the blessings cease, he will regret it. In this life and material existence, the blessings will yield fruit, if one practices prayers and gratitude(in the foam of seva and charity). If one does not do so, then the one who gave life will take it away without any fruits.
sab gam peechhe hae khushee-aalee, or daaru(n) hae sab dukhanneku(n);
sab sakhatee peechhe hae aasaanee, samajaa-o deel apanneku(n);
dunee-aa ba(n)deekhaanaa hae momanku(n), or kaafarku(n) hae jan-nat tthaam;
moman dunee-aa sakhtee badale, a(n)t paaesee huraa(n) kasar jan-nat mukaam.....224
After every sorrow there is a joyous occasion, and there is a remedy for all unhappy situations. After every difficulty there is rest and calm, make this understood to your hearts. The world is a prison for a believer, and it is a paradise for an infidel. For the worldly tribulations, a momin will attain an abode of paradise.
nek aadamee jo dukh paayaa, to jaano rahemat rabane bhejee;
or faasak jo dukh paayaa, to karatukase balaa us upar aaee;
ayub nabeekaa dukhaddaa rahemat, jo keedde padde saare a(n)g;
feeraun ddubaa ees balaa, jo laddataa thaa musaa nabeeke sa(n)g.........225
If a virtuous person has experienced tribulation, then know that the Lord has sent His mercy. And if a sinner has experienced tribulations, then it is the result of his bad actions. The tribulations of Prophet Ayub were a mercy, ants were all over his body due to a certain decease. The sinking of Firaaun was a curse, for he fought against Hazarat Musa.
man vaar karo jeene dukh dee-aa, so kheejal hoesee damo dam;
tu(n) man vaar kar vae kheejal hoesee, teraa kuchh na hoesee kam;
jeene dukh dee-aa so sharamee(n)daa hoesee, jo tu(n) bahot kare man vaar;
e baat suno leekho seene paattee, farmaayaa shaahe naamdaar.....226
Do not keep it in your mind if someone harms you, for he will be disgraced and ashamed every breath. If you disregard it, he will be ashamed, and you will have nothing to do with that. The one who has harmed you will be ashamed if you disregard it all the time. Listen to this, record it in your hearts, says Hazarat Aly.
gus-saa daayam aap man khaanaa, or upar gus-saa na karee-e;
gus-saa daaj manme(n) bujaa-o, khudaake gus-sese ddaree-e;
eemaam husenke mo(n)ho mubaarak par, baa(n)dee haathase paddee garam aash;
gus-saa sab aap man khaayaa, farmaayaa tu(n) aazaad baash.......227
Always swallow the anger from your mind, do not be angry upon anyone. Extinguish the fire of anger from your heart, and fear the wrath of God. A slave poured hot porridge upon the face of Hazarat Imam Husein. He swallowed all anger for her in his mind, and said instead, "You are free".
gus-saa na karee-e dheeraj dharee-e, sabaro tofeek karee-e rafeek;
shukar khudaaekaa saathee karee-e, to khudaa tumaaraa hove shafeek;
e tan man teraa to sukh paave, jo haradam shukar karo tum aadat;
shukar saburee aadat huee jeesakee, kabul huee usakee eebaadat..228
Do not be angry and have patience, befriend patience and contentment. Make gratitude towards God your companion, then God will be your helper. This body and mind will attain peace, if at all times you have the habit of thanks giving. The one who has the habit of thanks giving and patience, has his/her prayer accepted.
Appreciate again and again, freshly and naively,
the basic goods of life, with awe,
pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy,
however stale these experiences may have become to others.
- Abraham Maslow
Abundance is not something we acquire.
It is something we tune into.
- Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
When you arise in the morning,
give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength.
Give thanks for your food, and the joy of living.
If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies with yourself.
Thank you, God, for this good life
and forgive us if we do not love it enough.
- Garrison Keillor
Once an old man was sitting in his usual place, dhikr (rememberance) of Almighty on his lips.
Slightly pre-occupied with the loaf of bread which was going to be his sustenance for the day.
Always the same..... One loaf of bread.
And Prophet Moosaa (Moses) happened to be walking past. The old man thought - "Here is my chance to send a message to Almighty...."
So he greeted Moosaa, and said somewhat falteringly:
"Oh Holy Man, when you are speaking to your Creator, can you ask Him to increase my (sustenance).... For so long now, all I have is a single loaf of bread per day.
I long for more. Can I not have more than this....? If you ask him Oh Moosaa, surely HE will grant me more....."
Without hesitation the reply he got from Moosaa, was that his question would be put to Almighty.
And so it was, and the reply that Moosaa, received was that the Old Man's lot in life was to receive one loaf of bread per day.
That had been written for the Old Man for all his life.
The next time prophet saw the old man, and he passed on the message that 'one loaf of bread is all that he would receive, as it was written so, in his destiny'.
The old man was overjoyed. He clapped his hands with glee. Surprised by this reaction Moosaa, asked him the reason for his joy. The man replied, "If it is written, then so it shall be!!!! I have nothing to worry about. At least I will always receive one loaf of bread for the rest of my life......" and with that he went back to his prayers.
Now as the months passed, the man's tranquility increased with the knowledge that he need not worry about his sustenance. This enabled him to focus more on his remembrance of God, which led to him having less time to focus on food, and even less time to eat. So, from eating one loaf of bread, he barely managed to eat half a loaf.
What remained of the loaf of bread every day, was put in a corner. Soon, the pile in the corner began to increase, until it became a huge heap.
One morning a herdsman was passing through the village and stopped to speak to the old man. He was looking for hay for his livestock - but there was none to be found.
The old man said to him : "Why don't you take the stale bread that is lying in that heap, soften it with water and give it to your animals...." The herdsman did this and his herd happily ate every last crumb.
The herdsman, to show his gratitude, gave the old man a nanny goat, and went on his way.
Days passed into months and a few years had gone by when Moosaa, happened to be passing this way again. To his astonishment he found that the spot where the old man used to sit had been transformed into a garden.
There were fruit trees growing nearby, and animals grazing not very far away. There was a field with grain, and a general atmosphere of abundance and well being. Moosa, found out that all this belonged to the old man.
Puzzled, because he knew what was written in the old man's destiny - a single loaf of bread per day - prophet went on his way determined to find out what this was all about.
"How could this be?" "A loaf a day is all that was written.........., yet he had so much more ..."
The answer when it came is something we should all take heed of..... "One loaf of bread was the sustenance that had been written for the old man. The fruit trees, the live stock and field of crops were the blessings which came from his acceptance of what had been written, as his lot in life."
It was his reward for his complete trust in Almighty. The (Abundance) was the result of his shift in focus from what he wanted, to enjoying what he had, to such a degree, that even after eating as much as he wanted, he still had some left. His needs had become so small. The abundance this created in the old man's life was compounded by his generosity and willingness to share what he had.
So Rizq (sustenance) is written. But, Barakat (abundance/prosperity/blessing/auspiciousness) comes when we Trust in Almighty, when we are generous with what we have, when we are grateful and when we put the Remembrance of Almighty above and beyond everything else.
May Almighty make us his grateful obedient servants
TWENTY-FOUR years ago this month, my wife and I married in Barcelona, Spain. Two weeks after our wedding, flush with international idealism, I had the bright idea of sharing a bit of American culture with my Spanish in-laws by cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner.
Easier said than done. Turkeys are not common in Barcelona. The local butcher shop had to order the bird from a specialty farm in France, and it came only partially plucked. Our tiny oven was too small for the turkey. No one had ever heard of cranberries.
Over dinner, my new family had many queries. Some were practical, such as, “What does this beast eat to be so filled with bread?” But others were philosophical: “Should you celebrate this holiday even if you don’t feel grateful?”
I stumbled over this last question. At the time, I believed one should feel grateful in order to give thanks. To do anything else seemed somehow dishonest or fake — a kind of bourgeois, saccharine insincerity that one should reject. It’s best to be emotionally authentic, right? Wrong. Building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it. In a nutshell, acting grateful can actually make you grateful.
For many people, gratitude is difficult, because life is difficult. Even beyond deprivation and depression, there are many ordinary circumstances in which gratitude doesn’t come easily. This point will elicit a knowing, mirthless chuckle from readers whose Thanksgiving dinners are usually ruined by a drunk uncle who always needs to share his political views. Thanks for nothing.
Beyond rotten circumstances, some people are just naturally more grateful than others. A 2014 article in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience identified a variation in a gene (CD38) associated with gratitude. Some people simply have a heightened genetic tendency to experience, in the researchers’ words, “global relationship satisfaction, perceived partner responsiveness and positive emotions (particularly love).” That is, those relentlessly positive people you know who seem grateful all the time may simply be mutants.
But we are more than slaves to our feelings, circumstances and genes. Evidence suggests that we can actively choose to practice gratitude — and that doing so raises our happiness.
This is not just self-improvement hokum. For example, researchers in one 2003 study randomly assigned one group of study participants to keep a short weekly list of the things they were grateful for, while other groups listed hassles or neutral events. Ten weeks later, the first group enjoyed significantly greater life satisfaction than the others. Other studies have shown the same pattern and lead to the same conclusion. If you want a truly happy holiday, choose to keep the “thanks” in Thanksgiving, whether you feel like it or not.
How does all this work? One explanation is that acting happy, regardless of feelings, coaxes one’s brain into processing positive emotions. In one famous 1993 experiment, researchers asked human subjects to smile forcibly for 20 seconds while tensing facial muscles, notably the muscles around the eyes called the orbicularis oculi (which create “crow’s feet”). They found that this action stimulated brain activity associated with positive emotions.
If grinning for an uncomfortably long time like a scary lunatic isn’t your cup of tea, try expressing gratitude instead. According to research published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus (a key part of the brain that regulates stress) and the ventral tegmental area (part of our “reward circuitry” that produces the sensation of pleasure).
It’s science, but also common sense: Choosing to focus on good things makes you feel better than focusing on bad things. As my teenage kids would say, “Thank you, Captain Obvious.” In the slightly more elegant language of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, “He is a man of sense who does not grieve for what he has not, but rejoices in what he has.”
In addition to building our own happiness, choosing gratitude can also bring out the best in those around us. Researchers at the University of Southern California showed this in a 2011 study of people with high power but low emotional security (think of the worst boss you’ve ever had). The research demonstrated that when their competence was questioned, the subjects tended to lash out with aggression and personal denigration. When shown gratitude, however, they reduced the bad behavior. That is, the best way to disarm an angry interlocutor is with a warm “thank you.”
I learned this lesson 10 years ago. At the time, I was an academic social scientist toiling in professorial obscurity, writing technical articles and books that would be read by a few dozen people at most. Soon after securing tenure, however, I published a book about charitable giving that, to my utter befuddlement, gained a popular audience. Overnight, I started receiving feedback from total strangers who had seen me on television or heard me on the radio.
One afternoon, I received an unsolicited email. “Dear Professor Brooks,” it began, “You are a fraud.” That seemed pretty unpromising, but I read on anyway. My correspondent made, in brutal detail, a case against every chapter of my book. As I made my way through the long email, however, my dominant thought wasn’t resentment. It was, “He read my book!” And so I wrote him back — rebutting a few of his points, but mostly just expressing gratitude for his time and attention. I felt good writing it, and his near-immediate response came with a warm and friendly tone.
DOES expressing gratitude have any downside? Actually, it might: There is some research suggesting it could make you fat. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology finds evidence that people begin to crave sweets when they are asked to express gratitude. If this finding holds up, we might call it the Pumpkin Pie Paradox.
The costs to your weight notwithstanding, the prescription for all of us is clear: Make gratitude a routine, independent of how you feel — and not just once each November, but all year long.
There are concrete strategies that each of us can adopt. First, start with “interior gratitude,” the practice of giving thanks privately. Having a job that involves giving frequent speeches — not always to friendly audiences — I have tried to adopt the mantra in my own work of being grateful to the people who come to see me.
Next, move to “exterior gratitude,” which focuses on public expression. The psychologist Martin Seligman, father of the field known as “positive psychology,” gives some practical suggestions on how to do this. In his best seller “Authentic Happiness,” he recommends that readers systematically express gratitude in letters to loved ones and colleagues. A disciplined way to put this into practice is to make it as routine as morning coffee. Write two short emails each morning to friends, family or colleagues, thanking them for what they do.
Finally, be grateful for useless things. It is relatively easy to be thankful for the most important and obvious parts of life — a happy marriage, healthy kids or living in America. But truly happy people find ways to give thanks for the little, insignificant trifles. Ponder the impractical joy in Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “Pied Beauty”:
Glory be to God for dappled things —
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
Be honest: When was the last time you were grateful for the spots on a trout? More seriously, think of the small, useless things you experience — the smell of fall in the air, the fragment of a song that reminds you of when you were a kid. Give thanks.
This Thanksgiving, don’t express gratitude only when you feel it. Give thanks especially when you don’t feel it. Rebel against the emotional “authenticity” that holds you back from your bliss. As for me, I am taking my own advice and updating my gratitude list. It includes my family, faith, friends and work. But also the dappled complexion of my bread-packed bird. And it includes you, for reading this column.
THIS holiday season, there was something in the air that was even more inescapable than the scent of pumpkin spice: gratitude.
In November, NPR issued a number of brief exhortations to cultivate gratitude, culminating in an hourlong special on the “science of gratitude,” narrated by Susan Sarandon. Writers in Time magazine, The New York Times and Scientific American recommended it as a surefire ticket to happiness and even better health. Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, who studies the “science of gratitude,” argues that it leads to a stronger immune system and lower blood pressure, as well as “more joy and pleasure.”
It’s good to express our thanks, of course, to those who deserve recognition. But this holiday gratitude is all about you, and how you can feel better.
Gratitude is hardly a fresh face on the self-improvement scene. By the turn of the century, Oprah Winfrey and other motivational figures were promoting an “attitude of gratitude.” Martin Seligman, the father of “positive psychology,” which is often enlisted to provide some sort of scientific basis for “positive thinking,” has been offering instruction in gratitude for more than a decade. In the logic of positive self-improvement, anything that feels good — from scenic walks to family gatherings to expressing gratitude — is worth repeating.
Positive thinking was in part undone by its own silliness, glaringly displayed in the 2006 best seller “The Secret,” which announced that you could have anything, like the expensive necklace you’d been coveting, simply by “visualizing” it in your possession.
The financial crash of 2008 further dimmed the luster of positive thinking, which had done so much to lure would-be homeowners and predatory mortgage lenders into a speculative frenzy. This left the self-improvement field open to more cautious stances, like mindfulness and resilience and — for those who could still muster it — gratitude.
Gratitude is at least potentially more prosocial than the alternative self-improvement techniques. You have to be grateful to someone, who could be an invisible God, but might as well be a friend, mentor or family member. The gratitude literature often advises loving, human interactions: writing a “gratitude letter” to a helpful colleague, for example, or taking time to tell a family member how wonderful they are. These are good things to do, in a moral sense, and the new gratitude gurus are here to tell us that they also feel good.
But is gratitude always appropriate? The answer depends on who’s giving it and who’s getting it or, very commonly in our divided society, how much of the wealth gap it’s expected to bridge. Suppose you were an $8-an-hour Walmart employee who saw her base pay elevated this year, by company fiat, to $9 an hour. Should you be grateful to the Waltons, who are the richest family in America? Or to Walmart’s chief executive, whose annual base pay is close to $1 million and whose home sits on nearly 100 acres of land in Bentonville, Ark.? Grateful people have been habitually dismissed as “chumps,” and in this hypothetical case, the term would seem to apply.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that gratitude’s rise to self-help celebrity status owes a lot to the conservative-leaning John Templeton Foundation. At the start of this decade, the foundation, which promotes free-market capitalism, gave $5.6 million to Dr. Emmons, the gratitude researcher. It also funded a $3 million initiative called Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude through the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, which co-produced the special that aired on NPR. The foundation does not fund projects to directly improve the lives of poor individuals, but it has spent a great deal, through efforts like these, to improve their attitudes.
It’s a safe guess, though, that most of the people targeted by gratitude exhortations actually have something to be grateful for, such as Janice Kaplan, the author of the memoir “The Gratitude Diaries,” who spent a year appreciating her high-earning husband and successful grown children. And it is here that the pro-social promise of gratitude begins to dim. True, saying “thank you” is widely encouraged, but much of the gratitude advice involves no communication or interaction of any kind.
Consider this, from a yoga instructor on CNN.com: “Cultivate your sense of gratitude by incorporating giving thanks into a personal morning ritual such as writing in a gratitude journal, repeating an affirmation or practicing a meditation. It could even be as simple as writing what you give thanks for on a sticky note and posting it on your mirror or computer. To help you establish a daily routine, create a ‘thankfulness’ reminder on your phone or computer to pop up every morning and prompt you.”
Who is interacting here? “You” and “you.”
The Harvard Mental Health Letter begins its list of gratitude interventions with the advice that you should send a thank-you letter as often as once a month, but all the other suggested exercises can be undertaken without human contact: “thank someone mentally,” “keep a gratitude journal,” “count your blessings,” “meditate” and, for those who are so inclined, “pray.”
So it’s possible to achieve the recommended levels of gratitude without spending a penny or uttering a word. All you have to do is to generate, within yourself, the good feelings associated with gratitude, and then bask in its warm, comforting glow. If there is any loving involved in this, it is self-love, and the current hoopla around gratitude is a celebration of onanism.
Yet there is a need for more gratitude, especially from those who have a roof over their heads and food on their table. Only it should be a more vigorous and inclusive sort of gratitude than what is being urged on us now. Who picked the lettuce in the fields, processed the standing rib roast, drove these products to the stores, stacked them on the supermarket shelves and, of course, prepared them and brought them to the table? Saying grace to an abstract God is an evasion; there are crowds, whole communities of actual people, many of them with aching backs and tenuous finances, who made the meal possible.
The real challenge of gratitude lies in figuring out how to express our debt to them, whether through generous tips or, say, by supporting their demands for decent pay and better working conditions. But now we’re not talking about gratitude, we’re talking about a far more muscular impulse — and this is, to use the old-fashioned term, “solidarity” — which may involve getting up off the yoga mat.
Barbara Ehrenreich is the founding editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.
Joy is what happens to us
when we allow ourselves
to recognize how good things really are.
- Marianne Williamson
Look for joy in your life; it's not always easy to find.
- Charles Kuralt
Appreciate the Unexpected.
Appreciation is the highest form of prayer,
for it acknowledges the presence of good
wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts.
- Alan Cohen
Seeing my glass of life as mostly full
triggers an amazing cycle of transformation
Appreciation for the abundance of life incites gratitude -
which brings on that warm comfortable
feeling of joy and satisfaction with life.
Gratitude for abundance also creates increasing abundance.
Being truly grateful for the abundance that
is now in my life causes an ever greater abundance
to flow in my direction.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie
Every blessing ignored becomes a curse.
- Paulo Coelho
The unthankful heart... discovers no mercies;
but let the thankful heart sweep through the day
and, as the magnet finds the iron,
so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!
- Henry Ward Beecher
The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.
- William Blake
A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect;
be open to receiving the bounty of the Universe.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie
TODAY, consider performing an act-of-kindness for someone who can never repay you.
Is there someone who will be alone on Thanksgiving unless you share your table with them?
Sometimes our light goes out but
is blown into flame by another human being.
Each of us owes deepest thanks
to those who have rekindled this light.
- Albert Schweitzer
The moment you become miserly you are closed
to the basic phenomenon of life: expansion, sharing.
The moment you start clinging to things,
you have missed the target.
Because things are not the target,
you, your innermost being, is the target -
not a beautiful house, but a beautiful you;
not much money, but a rich you;
not many things, but an open being,
available to millions of things.
Pay It Forward.
Gift future generations in proportion to your gratitude.
The nature of life is that we pay forward
our biological creation and nurture.
Our parents gift us with life and nurture,
and we gift our children with life and nurture.
While this much is essential to continued human existence,
choose to take "pay it forward" farther - much farther.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie
The debt of gratitude we owe our mother and father
goes forward, not backward.
What we owe our parents is the bill presented to us by our children.
- Nancy Friday
Each of us has been generously gifted by parents, teachers, mentors, and others we can never repay. So, in gratitude for what we have received, it is now our turn to generously gift the children, the up-and-coming, and the down-and-out -- with no expectation that they can ever repay us - and with the hope that they will, in turn, pay-forward to another generation.
Thankfulness Linked to Positive Changes in Brain and Body
Grateful? Write it down. Think about it. Talk about it. 'Tis the season of thanking, and not only will you spread those positive vibrations to those around you, your health will benefit, too.
For those who tend to be more Grinch-ish than grateful, there's some hard evidence that might make you want to turn that frown upside down. A positive outlook and feelings of thankfulness can have a direct and beneficial effect on the brain and body.
"If [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world's best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system," said Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, head of the division of biologic psychology at Duke University Medical Center.
AJ Jacobs is known for his unique style of immersion journalism. He’s lived, literally, according to the Bible. He’s went out and met every obscure relative he could find in his family tree. In his new book, Thanks A Thousand, he went on a quest to personally thank every person who had a hand in making his morning cup of coffee—the farmers, the woman who does pest control for the warehouse where the coffee is stored, the man who designed the lid, the baristas, and on and on.
This last journey was the least physically trying but the most transformative. In our interview with AJ for DailyStoic.com, he explained just how wonderful this forced exercise in gratitude has been:
One big change was related to the Stoic idea of the self-interested case for virtue. The idea that acting badly makes you feel badly. That whoever does wrong, wrongs himself. But when you act virtuously, you get a little burst of happiness.
So during this project, I’d wake up in a grumpy mood, but I’d force myself to call or visit or email folks to thank them for their role in my coffee. Admittedly, some were baffled. They’d say, “Is this a pyramid scheme?” But the majority were really pleased to hear from me.
I remember I called the woman who does pest control for the warehouse where my coffee is stored. And I said, “I know this sounds strange, but I want to thank you for keeping the bugs out of my coffee.” And she said, “That does sound strange. But thank YOU. You made my day.”
And that, in turn, made my day. By forcing myself to act in a grateful way, I became less grouchy. Ideally, gratitude should be a two-way street. It should give both parties a little dopamine boost.
The word Epictetus uses for gratitude—eucharistos—means “seeing” what is actually occurring in each moment. He said, “It is easy to praise providence for anything that may happen if you have two qualities: a complete view of what has actually happened in each instance, and a sense of gratitude.” Part of what made AJ’s journey so meaningful to him and to everyone else involved is that they were really seeing each other for the first time. He was really looking—and when he saw, he said thanks.
It’s a good model for us to try in our lives. Take some time today to stop, take a step back, and get a complete view—like that there are over a thousand people involved in making your morning cup of coffee possible. There’s a lot we take for granted. In every moment, there are limitless opportunities to say thanks. Take them!
P.S. Check out our full interview with A.J. Jacobs and check out his new book Thanks A Thousand—it's a great reminder of the amazing interconnectedness of our world and teaches us how gratitude can make our lives happier, kinder, and more impactful.
Thanks A Thousand: Bestselling Author A.J. Jacobs On Cultivating Gratitude
The Dialectic of Gratitude (Shukr) in the Non-dualism of Ibn al-Arabi
If a man had no more to do with God than to be thankful,
That would suffce.
* * *
The eye with which I see God
is the eye with which He sees me.
The role and function of gratitude or shukr in Islam has been a topic that, until recently, has been the subject of little extensive analysis. This is despite the central place of gratitude within the faith. As Toshihiko Izutsu astutely observed, ‘Islam as a religion is … an exhortation to gratitude towards God.’ The present essay aims to contribute to our knowledge of shukr within the realm of Islamic ethics by taking as its focal point Ibn al-Arabi’s treatment of the virtue as it appears principally in Chapters 120 and 121 of the Meccan Revelations , with a particular focus on the relation between divine and human gratitude, or rather, the ‘interplay’ or even ‘dialectic’ of gratitude between God and what the Andalusian mystic believed to be His theophanic self-revelation in the human being. The essay begins with an overview of the semantics of shukr within the Arabic language and the use of the term in the Quran, and then proceeds to a treatment of the levels of this maqam or station in Ibn al-Arabi;. While the mystic deals with a cluster of broadly related themes in the two chapters, constraints of space limit the present analysis to what we might designate the levels of human gratitude, and the particular manner in which these levels relate to divine shukr . In the process of our inquiry, the essay will also demonstrate the manner in which Ibn al-Arabi’s treatment of this virtue reflects an extensive engagement with and development of the broader mystical tradition to which he was heir.
Before you fill your plate, please remember why we mark this day.
As Grace Donnelly wrote in a 2017 piece for Fortune:
The celebration in 1621 did not mark a friendly turning point and did not become an annual event. Relations between the Wampanoag and the settlers deteriorated, leading to the Pequot War. In 1637, in retaliation for the murder of a man the settlers believed the Wampanoags killed, they burned a nearby village, killing as many as 500 men, women, and children. Following the massacre, William Bradford, the Governor of Plymouth, wrote that for “the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a Governor was in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.”
The Vicious Reality Behind the Thanksgiving Myth
If Americans continue to insist on associating the holiday with Pilgrims and Indians, the least we can do is try to get the story straight.
Generations of Americans have told themselves a patriotic story of the supposed first Thanksgiving that misrepresents colonization as consensual and bloodless.
The story goes like this: English Pilgrims cram aboard the Mayflower and brave the stormy Atlantic to seek religious freedom in America. They disembark at Plymouth Rock and enter the howling wilderness equipped with their proto-Constitution, the Mayflower Compact, and the confidence that they are God’s chosen people. Yet sickness and starvation halve their population during the first winter and challenges their faith.
Meanwhile, the neighboring Indians (rarely identified by tribe), with whom the English desperately wish to trade for food, keep a wary distance. Just when Plymouth seems destined to become another lost colony, miraculously, the Natives make contact through the interpreters Samoset and Squanto (the story sidesteps how these figures learned English, nor does it explain why the Indians suddenly became so friendly). The sachem (or chief), Ousamequin (whom the English know, from his title, as “Massasoit”), even agrees to a treaty of alliance with Plymouth.
Over the spring and summer, the Indians feed the Pilgrims and teach them how to plant corn; the colony begins to thrive. In the fall, the two parties seal their friendship with the first Thanksgiving. The subsequent 50-year peace allows colonial New England and, by extension, the United States to become a citadel of freedom, democracy, Christianity and plenty.
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As for what happens to the Indians next, this story has nothing to say. The Indians’ legacy is to present America as a gift to white people — or in other words, to concede to colonialism. Like Pocahontas and Sacagawea, the other famous Indians of American history, they help the colonizers and then move offstage.
The Wampanoags, who are the Indians in this tale, have long contended that the Thanksgiving myth sugarcoats the viciousness of colonial history for Native people. It does. The Pilgrims did not enter an empty wilderness ripe for the taking. Human civilization in the Americas was every bit as ancient and rich as in Europe. That is why Wampanoag country was full of villages, roads, cornfields, monuments, cemeteries and forests cleared of underbrush. Generations of Native people had made it that way with the expectation of passing along their land to their descendants.
Of fear and thankfulness. The white elephants of eternity are always out there.
Earlier this year, I got lost while hiking in the Sierra de Guadarrama, which rises to almost 8,000 feet in central Spain. It had been a grueling day under the September sun. The trail, scattered with boulders, was longer and steeper than expected. What had been described as a gentle glide along a ridge after a tough initial ascent proved unrelenting.
About seven hours in, I fell behind my two friends. I was following stone mounds, or cairns, not the clearest indicators in this case. False guides, they pulled me deeper into the mountains.
This was not a sudden realization but a growing unease that culminated in an admission: lost. Lost as in every human being has vanished. Lost as in I have to slow my heartbeat. Lost as in there are perhaps two more hours of daylight, my lips are dry and I’m out of water. Lost and small in a sierra suddenly vast and threatening.
The stupidest decisions can seem natural enough. For the three of us to separate, for our remaining water to be with my friends, even to undertake this trail without adequate information, was lunacy. Yet it seemed like harmless lunacy — until the mountains rebuked me with their immensity.
I had no water but did have a faint bar of reception on my dying cellphone. All I managed to communicate to my friend was two words — “I’m lost” — before we lost each other again. I looked around. I’d been descending, several hundred feet. I needed to climb again, get around the rocky outcrop above me, to be more visible. In the direction I’d been heading lay only wild terrain and jagged peaks.
Adrenalin is the most exhausting form of energy. Fear is a survival instinct as long as panic does not supplant it. I climbed without feeling the effort, leaping from boulder to boulder, but growing more parched. Far below me the switchbacks of a forest track appeared. No visible way to reach it.
Don’t fall or twist an ankle. Don’t trust that rock with your weight, misjudge the depth of the juniper thicket, or turn in circles. How and at what point does extreme thirst affect the mind? Don’t panic. Think.
Then I saw the birds, two of them. They were looking at me. Hulking and black, they were perched side by side on a rock like bloated chess pieces. No, they were not looking at me, they were eyeing me.
“The cot the man lay on was in the wide shade of a mimosa tree and as he looked out past the shade onto the glare of the plain there were three of the big birds squatted obscenely, while in the sky a dozen more sailed, making quick-moving shadows as they passed.”
I was headed toward the birds. Every fiber in me rebelled against their intent. How hideous in their appetite the vultures looked. I heard Harry, in his rage, dismissing his lover in the story:
“‘Don’t be silly. I’m dying now. Ask those bastards.’ He looked over to where the huge, filthy birds sat, their naked heads sunk in the hunched feathers.”
Yes, naked heads, that was right. Naked-beaked they sat in judgment on my life. The record was mixed. There were things I still needed to set right. For that I had to be found. I had to set a course and stick to it, build and not destroy, find a path to the light. The only way out was through.
There was Harry, dying in Africa, unable to love the woman who loved him, hurting her instead, full of bile. “It was not her fault that when he went to her he was already over.” Dying from the inside. “He had destroyed his talent by not using it, by betrayals of himself and what he believed in. …”
As I approached the birds, one launched itself into the air, its massive wings casting long shadows. I shuddered. Climbing and plunging, I pressed on, until at last I saw a man on a ridge, far-off and faint but not so faint that he could not serve as my marker.
A small group came into view, farther down the ridge. I waved. They waved. I saw a helicopter circling in the sky. How strange, I thought, not connecting it to me as my savior-bird. And now I saw a path out. My thirst was overwhelming, until I found myself surrounded by fellow hikers — generous, worried Spaniards — and I drank.
They told me my friends were looking for me farther up. They asked if I could climb. I said I was sorry, but no. I looked up the trail and everything converged: the helicopter landing, my friends gesturing, the rescue crew clambering out the chopper, the straight-backed Spanish man who’d given me water climbing toward them.
There were hugs. I boarded the chopper and collapsed in sobs. For my friends, who felt terrible and had managed to contact the rescue service; for this good Spanish crew, who would ask for nothing; for my foolish disrespect of the mountains; for the gift of life; for my children; for love.
As the helicopter climbed I looked back toward the wilderness. There were three birds now, circling. I’d eluded them. I’d set a direction and held to it. I’d been found. I felt thankful.
I thought of another Hemingway short story, “Hills Like White Elephants,” that I’d once read out loud and met this response: “I don’t think I’ve ever read a short story about a couple arguing.”
She and I were very happy then. That’s what couples do, sometimes: quarrel. They survive or not, but, irrespective of their fate, the white elephants of eternity are always out there, much bigger than we are, and the only way to see them clearly, to defy loss, to feel the vibration of the infinite, is to love and to create.
Of Harry, Hemingway writes: “Now he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well.” All I know is that I can still try and that in the end I have no choice.
In light of the uncertainty and increased levels of anxiety caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Women’s Activities Portfolio (WAP) member and Fulfilment Coach, Shaista Kurji, shares her take on journaling and how it can help create a sense of ease, reduce stress and improve our mental health and general outlook whilst self-isolating.
Many of you may have heard of the practice of journaling, but how many of you know how to practice it, or the ways in which it could bring you a sense of ease when faced with adversity?
“I have been journaling since I was about 9 years old and one of the things I have grown to love and value most about my journaling practice is that it allows me to cultivate a sense of grati-tude, optimism and hope, particularly in times of uncertainty or hardship. Taking the time each day to write down my thoughts, feelings, experiences, plans for the future, ideas, reflections and the things I am most grateful for have had such a significant impact on my mindset, my con-fidence, my mental health and my general outlook on life. Whilst my journaling style has changed over the years to suit my needs, one thing has remained constant and that is the sense of calm, relief and peace I feel each time I close my journal after writing an entry.”
-Shaista Kurji, Fulfilment Coach for Women
Writing in a journal is a way of finding perspective, grounding in the here and now and staying aware of all the beauty, possibilities and opportunities in our everyday lives. It has been proven that keeping up a regular journaling practice can reduce stress, improve immune function, keep your memory sharp, boost your mood and strengthen emotional functions, amongst many more benefits.
Whilst there are numerous ways one could practice journaling, there are two specific tech-niques one may find extremely effective when faced with uncertainty:
1) Gratitude Journaling
The first, although popular, is hugely underestimated! Practicing gratitude is such a simple, but incredibly effective tool that trains our brains to bring our focus back to that which is good in our lives. At times like these, when we are exposed to excessive amounts of negativity through the media and other outlets, and when our realities are in a state of constant change, it be-comes far too easy to feel helpless, hopeless and fearful. By practicing gratitude regularly, we begin to rewire our brain in a way that allows us to think and feel more positively, which in turn has a positive effect on both our mental and physical health.
Beginning your own gratitude practice is easy, the key is to be consistent with it. Choose a notebook or a journal and commit to spending a few minutes each morning, before you begin your day, and write down just 5 things you are grateful for and why. You might find yourself coming up with the simpler things to begin with, for example, a roof over your head and the food on your table, but as your practice grows, push yourself to look within and go even deep-er.
2) Journaling Using Prompts
The second journaling technique that will get you to dig deeper is the use of journal prompts to guide your writing practice. Below is a list of prompts that are specifically designed to help you improve your mindset and embrace change and uncertainty during this period of self-isolation. Follow along as we share these prompts on social media to keep you motivated as you build your own daily journaling practice over the coming weeks. Share your thoughts, learnings and insights with us and feel free to reach out with any questions you have.
Thirty Journaling Prompts
1. What am I grateful for?
2. I am going to make today great by…
3. Today, I choose to let go of the things I can’t control, including…
4. How could I consciously deal with uncertainty in healthier ways?
5. What are my goals? What is getting in the way? What would one step forward look like?
6. In what ways do I take care of myself? Where can I improve?
7. What do I most look forward to each day?
8. In what ways can I create more structure in my life to feel more settled in this uncer-tain time?
9. What are the things that are most important to me in life?
10. How do the people in my life help me feel more secure and grounded in uncertain times?
11. I recognise that I don’t need to have all the answers right now. Today, I give myself permission not to know….
12. If my body could talk, it would say…
13. What would I do right away if I wasn’t afraid of making mistakes?
14. What do I love most about myself and why?
15. I know I’m strong enough to handle whatever comes at me, because I’ve survived a lot, including…
16. I feel most energised when…
17. In what ways can I embrace uncertainty?
18. What are my strengths? How do I use them in my life?
19. One topic I want to learn about to help me live a more fulfilling life is…
20. What is my biggest challenge right now? What will I do about it?
21. What do I love most about life?
22. Instead of worrying about making the ‘wrong’ choices, I trust that no matter what I choose….
23. I feel happiest in my skin when…
24. What is currently my biggest worry? Imagine it wasn’t my worry, but that of my best friend. What advice would I give him/her?
25. Today I choose to forgive myself for…..
26. Which situations cause the most stress and tension in my everyday life? What can I do - or stop doing - to approach them in a calmer way?
27. How can I better support the people that mean the most to me?
28. Based on my daily routines and actions, where do I see myself in 5 years? What kind of person will I be if I keep doing what I’m doing right now?
29. What have I achieved that I am really proud of?
30. If I had the chance to call the 10 year younger me and speak fo 30 seconds, what would I say?
Verses vs. Virus: What These Poets Laureate Are Thankful For
By Shawn Hubler
It’s been a difficult year in every corner of the land. But there are still neighbors and family, breathtaking landscapes and gratitude for the ‘bend without the break.’
As Americans gather for Thanksgiving in a nation battered and brought low by rampant disease and division, you may ask: What in this of all years do we have to be thankful for?
More than a quarter-million lives have been lost to a scourge that at this time last year no one knew existed. Wildfires and hurricanes have ravaged great swaths of the country. Trusted institutions — science, post offices, the vote — have been politically assaulted.
Jobs have disappeared. Hospitals have been overwhelmed. Lines stretch for blocks at food banks. Students cannot sit in classrooms or travel home from colleges without a face-masked ordeal of quarantine, swabs and evasive maneuvers. Neighbors cannot break bread safely around Thanksgiving tables, assuming they still have the will.
Yet gratitude persists. Last week, we asked poets laureate across the country why the people in their states would be thankful. They enthusiastically responded, some within minutes, many with poetry.
“I am thankful for friends,” wrote Nebraska’s state poet, Matt Mason:
for the palette of Nebraska
sunsets, for my family,
still alive, thank God,
thank the Med Center
“Lately, I’d been wanting a little light — and there it was,” wrote Karen Craigo of Missouri, describing a stand of small trees that “glowed like campfires” and made her think about other blessings.
In Maine, Stuart Kestenbaum summoned “gale force winds along the coast in the morning” and thanked the crew — “these men doing their jobs” — that repaired his downed power line in the dark, in head lamps.
“It’s not hard for Californians to know whom to thank in 2020,” wrote Dana Gioia, California’s most recent poet laureate. “Four million acres of the Golden State went up in flames this fall. We thank — profoundly and prodigiously — the fire, police, and emergency personnel, as well as the prison volunteers, who risked their own safety to protect us.”
Oregon’s poet laureate, Anis Mojgani, was grateful, too, “for the earth still / having not released us.” His predecessor, Kim Stafford, recalling the catastrophic wildfires that swept through that state, wrote of another savior: “rain nipping flame’s root, gray mud of ash.”
And in Minnesota, Joyce Sutphen gave thanks for
snow that comes down from Canada
covering the leaves we didn’t rake
and how sometimes after that, we
get a heat wave and a second chance
to put things right in the world
Did you know that it’s almost impossible to be upset and grateful at the same time?
It’s one of those universal truths that is easy to prove — just try it yourself. Being thankful flips a switch inside of you that clears out any negative feelings you were experiencing a few moments before.
“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” —William Arthur Ward
It may seem counterintuitive to feel grateful when things are challenging in your life. But what if this emotion became more than just a reaction to good news and was something we felt all the time?
New research is showing that a gratitude practice doesn’t only make you happier and more fulfilled, but can also save your life.
A study from the University of California San Diego’s School of Medicine discovered that people who were more grateful had better heart health — specifically less inflammation and healthier heart rhythms.
The study’s author, Paul J. Mills, explains,
“They showed a better well-being, a less depressed mood, less fatigue, and they slept better. We found that those patients who kept gratitude journals for eight weeks showed reductions in circulating levels of several important inflammatory biomarkers, as well as an increase in heart rate variability while they wrote. Improved heart rate variability is considered a measure of reduced cardiac risk.”
Gratitude is good for you! But don’t take our word for it. Try it out for yourself and see if it makes a difference. To aid you in some random acts of gratitude, we’ve listed 3 heart-opening ideas below.
Before we get to those, I’d like to share a little ritual we do in our house to keep the thankfulness alive and radiant. It’s our own version of grace that we say at the kitchen table every night. My five-year-old son River knows that before we eat dinner, we say “the grateful things.”
Although he’s still young, he seems to have a grasp of gratitude that inspires me, and touches deeply into something that I’m not always able to. I documented one of River’s recent prayers and included it below for you read. I hope his words inspire you too!
“Thank you, Pachamama, for this yummy delicious food that comes from your bounty and is gonna go into my body and give me the energy I need to be more kind and more compassionate, and be a better listener at school.
Thank you for the Moon that tugs on the tides and creates the weather, and for the rain that gives the plants water to drink. Thank you for the earth and all the nutrients in the soil, and all the little bugs that we can’t see that help bring those nutrients to the plants so they can eat.
Thank you to Father Sun who shines down his rays of light onto all the plants so they can grow and be healthy and give us food to eat..
Thank you to all the hands that touched this food. Thank you to the farmers who grew the food, and to the people who work in the store where we buy the food. And thank you mom and dad for cooking this meal for us.”
3 Easy Ways To Bring More Gratitude Into Your Life:
Creating a daily habit is the best way to start your internal gratitude engine and invite more joy, health, wealth, vitality, and abundance into your life. Here are 3 simple exercises to help you on your path:
1. Gratitude for a new day. Each morning, say a simple “thank you” for another new day of life.
2. Say a daily gratitude prayer for “the grateful things” at a mealtime. Choose a meal each day where you have a moment to sit and reflect on a few things that you’re grateful for in that moment.
3. Write down one grateful thing each day for the next ten days. Grab a notebook or pad of paper — or if you’re really ready to take this on, find yourself a beautiful blank journal. Begin with a ten-day practice, and each day list one thing you’re grateful for. If possible, try to mix it up, including something from each area of your life over that period.
Some gratitude inspiration, to help get you started:
What you like about yourself, inside and out.
Can you derive some bit of wisdom from a challenge you are currently facing?
List your favorite people and what you love about them.
Perhaps take a moment to focus on the good parts of your job, the work you get to do, the people you get to do it with, and the compensation you receive for it.
What are the things you love about where you live?
What is your favorite color? How does it make you feel?
Have you received any kind words or praise lately?
What are you good at? Do you have hidden talents?
What are you looking forward to in life?
Was the sky particularly beautiful today?
The opportunities to find things to be grateful for are endless. They don’t have to be big; it can be something as simple as that first ray of sunshine in the morning.
One thing I know: I’m grateful for YOU, dear reader. Without you, The Sacred Science would not be possible. Thank you — sincerely — for being a part of our community.
Grateful Heart: Shukran Zikr
Primus, Amabile Men's Choir
Featuring Andrew Haji and Samidha Joglekar
“Grateful Heart” was commissioned and produced by Primus, the Amabile Men’s Choir guided by Toronto composer Hussein Janmohamed to bring a feeling of gratitude as we approach the festival of Eid.
The spirit of the composition comes from a sense of how in the busyness of our world, and in our individualistic pursuits, we forget to be grateful and give sincere thanks. Our hearts know it, but our busy minds are like a veil. There are also moments where we feel such profound gratitude that we can’t find the words to describe. The depth of gratitude is such. It sometimes takes a concerted effort to slowly peel away the layers of the busy mind to hear and feel the voice of gratitude deeply seated in the heart. Once we find that connection to gratitude, we have the opportunity to contemplate and deepen it with zikr (remembrance), the mantra-like repetition of prayers and praise. The repetition helps the feelings of sincerity to be internalized. The feelings are amplified in each repetition and become more fervent. The sincere zikr slowly polishes the dust off our hearts enabling us to flourish. With this enlivened sense of gratitude we come back to the world with freshness.
The “Grateful Heart” musical soundscape draws on diverse Indic and Persian expressions of love found within the Ismaili tradition globally. The tune of the prayer and everyday experssion of thanks around the Muslim world, Shukranlillah Al-hamdulillah (Thanks and praise be to God) comes from Iran. The melodic fragments in the voices are adaptations and new formulations of raga-based Indic Ismaili ginan, hymns of love, praise and knowledge.
The architectural form of “Grateful Heart” is based on prayer beads (tasbih) used by Muslims globally. Some prayer beads can consist of 33 beads divided into three sections of 11 beds each. In "Grateful Heart," one can hear Shukranlillah Al-hamdulillah recited 33 times from start to finish, divided into three sections of 11 repetitions.
“Grateful Heart” is structured as a palindrome. A palindrome is a word, phrase, or sequence that reads the same backward as forward, e.g., madam or abba. The the first half of the piece mirrors the second half of the piece. The music sounds the same going from start to the midpoint and from the end to the midpoint. One can feel the different soundscapes, harmonies, melodies and tempo as all the voices try to get into perfect agreement.
The Amabile Choirs of London, Canada is a non-profit organization dedicated to educational programs; welcoming children, youth and adults who wish to develop their musical talents as part of a vibrant, award-winning choral organization. Amabile’s choral music education programs are known locally and internationally for their exquisite tone and color artistry. Comprised of nine choirs, Amabile’s music education programs begin laying the foundation with children at age eight through to adulthood. Singers come with engaged and inquisitive minds and work to transform that natural intelligence and talent into works of art for audiences. The continuum and depth that Amabile offers is unparalleled by any other choral organization in Canada. Amabile has achieved acclaim on national and international stages for its excellence in choral performance.
JollyGul.com is indeed very grateful to the Amabile Choirs of London, Canada and Conductors Carol Beynon and Mark Payne for permission to present this creative masterpiece (produced under pandemic conditions) with textual enhancements on the video for the benefit of our Jamat.
I’m from a family that doesn’t talk much about feelings. We keep it mostly to jokes, sarcasm and sports. When I was growing up, perhaps the biggest perceived sin was being overly earnest and sincere. So all of us kids were shocked when one Thanksgiving, out of nowhere, my parents announced that we’d begin a new ritual. The 20 to 30 of us gathered for the Thanksgiving meal each had to share something we were grateful for.
Over the years, this practice took on the repetitive qualities all liturgies have. Some people expressed gratitude for their health or friends and family. Every year, my great-uncle gave thanks for being a Democrat, and our friend Art strategically positioned himself directly after him in the circle so he could say that he was grateful “for canceling out his vote,” and everyone laughed. My introverted brother-in-law would tease my parents about the horror of the dreaded “circle of thanks.”
But the dreaded circle became part of why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is a day that spotlights the need for gratitude.
At least, that is what this day is at its best. Kisha James, a member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe in New England, told Boston’s WBUR last year that she does not object to Thanksgiving gatherings, but rather the false mythology surrounding the day.
“Try to divorce your Thanksgiving celebrations from the Thanksgiving mythology,” she suggested, “so no more pilgrims and Indians, no more teaching your children about the first Thanksgiving as we learn it in public school where it was a friendly meal.” We don’t need the origin myth that whitewashes the violent oppression of Native people, but we certainly, as a culture, need the practice of thanksgiving.
The practice of gratitude is central to nearly every religious and spiritual tradition. And all of us have much to be grateful for. We get the shocking privilege of living on this planet that is uniquely crafted so that humans can be born, breathe, grow, work, harvest and create. We have bodies that know the pleasures of strawberries, guacamole and buttery popcorn. We hear laughter and breathe in the steam of hot coffee.
The practice of gratitude teaches us, as the theologian Christine D. Pohl put it, “the giftedness of our total existence.” This posture of receptiveness — living as the thankful beneficiary of gifts — is the path of joy because it reminds us that we do not have to be the makers and sustainers of our life. Gratitude is how we embrace beauty without clutching it so tightly that we strangle it.
To receive life as a gift is to acknowledge that we do not — and indeed cannot — hold our world together out of our sheer effort, will and strength. Most of the best things in life can only be received and held with open hands. Like the story of the Israelites receiving manna from God in the desert, we receive what we need as sheer mercy, but it cannot be hoarded, clung to or clutched. Instead, understanding all of our existence as a gift allows us to see that we are limited in our own capacity to control the world and yet we are given what we need, day by day.
Maybe your Thanksgiving will be dreamy, full of abundant food, family, friends and laughter. Or maybe you’ll burn the turkey. Maybe you are barely getting by. Maybe you will feel lonely or hurt by your family and friends. Even still, there are ordinary gifts and overlooked graces that surround us on each day of our lives.
“Even in these lowly lovelinesses,” says the title character Thomas Wingfold in George MacDonald’s novel, “there is a something that has its root deeper than your pain; that, all about us, in earth and air, wherever eye or ear can reach, there is a power ever breathing itself forth in signs, now in a daisy, now in a wind waft, a cloud, a sunset, a power that holds constant and sweetest relation with the dark and silent world within us.”
Thanksgiving Day softly asks us to practice thanks for the lowly lovelinesses that make up each of our lives, to take time to notice the constant and sweetest relation offered by the giver of every good gift.
Feeling grateful does not always happen naturally. Thankfulness is something like a muscle we can exercise. Just as we can cultivate ingratitude, entitlement, bitterness or cynicism, we can foster gratitude, appreciative humility, delight and joy. To that end, here are some practical ways to cultivate gratitude this Thanksgiving and throughout the year:
1. Keep lists. Look back over a day or a week, and write down as many things as you can think of that you receive as a gift — things that are as essential as breath or as frivolous as a good parking spot. On a terrible week, you can list moments of light amid the darkness. On a good week, you can take time to celebrate each grace.
My best friend in high school kept a list on her bedroom wall of things that gave her joy: curled tortilla chips, swimming, inside jokes. Nicole Roccas’s “A Journal of Thanksgiving” is a resource that encourages writing a list of daily thanksgivings for three consecutive years.
2. Write notes of thanks. I will be honest here that I hate writing thank-you notes — those compulsory niceties of etiquette where you blaze through name after name trying to conjure up something new to say about the soup terrine on your wedding registry. As a pastor I’ve seen how this customary task crushes people right when they are most in need of a break, during major life transitions like having a child or in times of mourning after a loss.
That said, I love random, not required, notes of thanks. Gratitude reminds us that we are deeply dependent on one another and on God. Take time to say thank you in writing to the friends and family who surround you. One year, I wrote short daily notes of thanks to my husband for a month or so and found that the deliberate practice actually made me feel more grateful over time. Also, consider writing occasional thank-you notes to those who you may not know as well but on whom you rely every day: your mail carrier, bus driver or child’s teacher.
3. Compose your own psalm. The Psalms are a poetic way of expressing thanks to God. You can read a psalm of thanksgiving like Psalm 111 or Psalm 34 and alter the words to reflect the particular good things in your own life. For example, Psalm 34 says, “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” I could write, “I sought the Lord and he heard me and helped me with that difficult conversation with a friend.” Or healed my son from his stomach bug. Or delivered me from a fear of failure. Alternatively, you can write a poem or song of gratitude from scratch. Even if it’s terrible, you’ll probably be better for having written it.
4. Make a piece of art or a shrine. For those who are more visually inclined, instead of listing things for which you are grateful, create a space where you can draw, make a collage or otherwise represent things that remind you of the gifts in your life. This can include photos, single words or sacred objects. Get creative and see if it helps you notice big and small graces in your day.
5. Take a gratitude walk. When my 11-year-old was very little, she invented something called the “beautiful game,” where we walked around our neighborhood spotting as many things as we could that we found beautiful. It helped me see how much goodness I regularly overlook. In the same way, take to the streets (by foot, bike or car) and give silent thanks for what is around you: your favorite coffee shop, a burst of red leaves in a tree, the local school, the crossing guards, a friendly neighbor, the quieting of city streets in the evening.
I, for one, am grateful for you, readers and subscribers to this newsletter. I’ll be sure to mention you in the circle of thanks. May you have a very joyful and thankful Thanksgiving.
Greetings as we approach the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving celebration. The Pilgrims in 1621 had much to be thankful for. They had arrived a year earlier with “no friends to wellcome them, nor inns to entertaine or refresh their weatherbeaten bodys, no houses or much less townes to repaire too, to seeke for succoure,” in the words of their leader, William Bradford. The Wampanoags, hoping the white settlers would help them fight other tribes, helped them survive the harsh winter. The wary allies celebrated that fall with a feast of turkeys, ducks and venison, although probably not cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie.
What does giving thanks have to do with economics? A lot, actually. I apologize if this sounds like an imitation of a David Brooks column, but the truth is that a spirit of gratitude motivates precisely the behaviors that a successful economy requires, particularly patience and generosity. For this newsletter I interviewed David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University (about 35 miles from where the Pilgrims landed), who is one of the leading authorities on the social effects of gratitude.
DeSteno’s recent papers include “Gratitude Reduces Consumption of Depleting Resources,” completed last year with Shanyu Kates, and “The Grateful Don’t Cheat: Gratitude as a Fount of Virtue” written with Fred Duong, Daniel Lim and Kates and published in Psychological Science in 2019. He published a book this year titled “How God Works: The Science Behind the Benefits of Religion.” I also recommend a talk that he gave at Google in 2018 on the topic of gratitude.
Naturally, I asked DeSteno how he celebrates Thanksgiving. “Of course everybody sits around the table and we talk about what we’re grateful for,” he said. “But if you do it once a year it’s not going to do anything for you.” Gratitude must be cultivated throughout the year, he said.
Until recently, the conventional wisdom in economics was that people should use the rational part of their brains to control the emotional part. Pure reason would suppress impulsiveness, greed and lust, allowing people to save for retirement, stick to a diet and stay faithful to their spouses. But scholars — not just DeSteno — have come around to the idea that a more effective way to combat negative emotions is with positive emotions. It’s less stressful, too, because you’re feeling good while doing good.
“Gratitude gives us more patience,” DeSteno said. “It focuses us on long-term gains over short-term satisfaction. In morality it allows us to be honest, be fair. We can reduce the cheating rate of people by 50 percent and make them more generous with profits.”
There’s something odd about exhorting people to be grateful by telling them it will be good for them. After all, is it really gratitude if it’s purely instrumental? DeSteno is aware of the seeming paradox, but he says there’s no contradiction. “In cultivating gratitude you are helping yourself, but you are also helping others,” he told me.
Shakespeare’s King Lear says, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is / To have a thankless child.” David Hume, the philosopher, said, “Of all crimes that human creatures are capable of committing, the most horrid and unnatural is ingratitude.” And the comedian Louis C.K. — every bit their equal! — used to do a riff about a guy on a plane who got miffed when the in-flight Wi-Fi stopped working. “Like, how quickly the world owes him something he knew existed only 10 seconds ago.”
In other words, gratitude doesn’t come to us easily. But it’s worth working on. DeSteno told me, “If we were to do every day what we do on Thanksgiving, our lives would be better for it.”
In that spirit, I thank you for reading this newsletter. Please send me your favorite story about gratitude using the email address below. I will share one of them in my Dec. 3 edition.
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