The Well

Tag: Gratitude

Giving Thanks

by Andrew Shaw on Nov.23, 2009, under Archives

With Thanksgiving being this week, I felt it would be appropriate to talk more about gratitude.  I teach a contemplation on gratitude in my ten-week course at A Deep Well.  This contemplative meditation is about shifting our perspective, moving our focus from our problems to our privileges, from what we lack to what we have.  The comparing mind is a source of much suffering, of dissatisfaction, sadness, jealousy, resentment, anger, worry and stress.  When we compare, we feel that we don’t have enough.  But if we were to really notice all that we do have, these negative feelings are replaced by gratitude, appreciation, happiness, contentment, love, and compassion.  This is a great exercise to practice every week, but especially this week, as giving thanks for our many blessings is such an important part of the Holiday. 

To start, notice that you’re breathing.  Notice Being Alive. 

Next, try to bring to mind things that you’re grateful for.

In your day-to-day life, what things are you grateful for?

Most of the time we forget about how blessed we really are and we take so many things for granted.  What things small or large are you grateful for?  It may be that you have food to eat, a safe place to live, a job and a paycheck, or other comforts.  Just see if you can bring to mind some things in your life that you feel grateful for.  Even something as simple as your breath, your heart beating, being alive, may be something you feel grateful for.  Maybe you feel grateful for having a healthy body and mind, that you have abilities and are capable of doing many things.  You can walk and talk.  You have your senses; you are able to fully experience the wonders of life around you—you can see the beautiful flower, you can feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, you can hear the music of the birds, you can taste life.

Now bring to mind people you feel grateful for.  Relationships, friends, family.  People who support you, love you, accept you, care about you.

Bring to mind something that’s happened or is happening that you feel grateful for.  Something good that recently occurred or is happening for you now.  

If you can’t think of anything that you are grateful for, maybe you can feel thankful for the most basic gift.  There are people who are sick and dying… but right now, you have life, you are here, you are alive, and that’s a wonderful thing. 

If you aren’t able to feel gratitude, that’s okay.  You shouldn’t have to feel something.  The most important thing is to let yourself be as you are with acceptance.  This may gradually change with more practice and training the mind to notice more and appreciate more.

Just spend a few moments allowing all the things, people, events you are grateful for to come to mind.  And see if you can feel the gratitude in your heart when it comes, a feeling of warmth, of happiness, of love, of appreciation.  And let this feeling of gratitude, of thankfulness and contentment, flow in you.

Expressing gratitude and stopping in the moment to recognize and acknowledge the immense blessings that are constantly around all of us, creates more happiness, more abundance and more of the good things in life. We are surrounded by goodness. In order to realize it, we must recognize it, acknowledge it and give gratitude for it. The more we stop for a Moment of Gratitude, we will find less lack, negativity and discord.  We can begin to shift our focus from what we don’t have to what we do have, from comparing ourselves to those who have much more to those who have far less.  And with this comes greater perspective and happiness.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with joy and gratitude, and as always may you Be Well.

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Finding Perspective

by Andrew Shaw on Sep.27, 2009, under Archives

I recently traveled to Seattle to visit my brother.  For the past six months, he has been struggling with tremendous pain from serious back problems–a bulging disc, pinched nerves, intense pain.  There was a period a few weeks ago when he could barely move at all, even walking was unbearable.  He has been dealing with this for over half a year, his life turned upside down, visiting doctors all the time, trying to find some way to manage the pain.  Given all that my brother is going through right now, you’d think he would be angry or maybe depressed.  That would be totally valid and understandable.  But he wasn’t.  During the few days I spent with him, I was amazed by his attitude, his patience and acceptance.  Even in the presence of incredible physical pain, and the inconveniences that it’s creating in his life, he has been able to maintain perspective.  I heard him say it numerous times, his mantra seems to be, “I’m okay, things could be so much worse.”  He is able to recognize that even though his situation is hard, there are even worse problems in the world, and there are others who are bearing even more.  This situation actually seemed to be teaching him how to be more patient, more accepting, more grateful for the things he does have and the things he is able to do. 

Being with my brother, observing how he was handling this challenge, was quite a lesson for me and an important reminder about the helpfulness of finding perspective.  My own problems and worries somehow seemed smaller now.  Unlike my brother, I’m not in pain.  I’m able to walk.  I’m able to do so many of the things we normally just take for granted.  Shifting perspective can be one of the most powerful and effective tools we have to cope with life’s problems and to develop a calmness of mind. 

When facing difficulties or problems, you can try to widen your perspective.  You can reflect on others, realizing there are many people who have gone through similar experiences, and many more who are going through even worse.  Rather than focusing too closely on the problem, getting absorbed and making it bigger, you can compare it to some other situation or greater event.  If you look at the same problem from a distance, it appears smaller and less overwhelming.  Let my brother serve as a reminder, and like my brother, approach problems with his mentality, “I’m okay, it could be worse.”  We can increase our life satisfaction and well-being by expanding our perspective, by comparing ourselves to those who are less fortunate and by reflecting on all that we have.  In a few weeks, I’ll post some more tips for increasing perspective, including a gratitude meditation.  Keep visiting!

Be Well

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