Dharma Topic: Gratitude and Transformation

Dharma Topic: Gratitude and Transformation

Discussion date: Thu, Apr 29, 2004 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

DearStill Water Friends,

 

This Thursday Evening, after our 7:30 sitting, we will practice the FiveTouchings of the Earth, a guided movement-mediation that helps us developour appreciation for what we have received and for who we are. During the FiveTouchings we bring our attention to some of the many gifts we have received, andin focusing on them in mindfulness, our appreciation grows.

 

Formany of us our tendency is to focus on what’s not working; our minds scan forproblems to attend to and fix (or complain about). When there is a big storm andour lights are out and the house is cold, a tree branch is on our car, and inthe office, water is dripping from the ceiling onto our computer, we bemoan ourfate. But when it is all working, when the house is light and warm, the carreliable, and our computer waiting for us to begin our work, we usually ignorethe people and condition who make our life comfortable. We look for somethingelse to be upset about, something to complain about: “Darn it, we are out ofalmond-coconut delight ice cream.”
 
Whyis it so hard (and seemingly so rare) to be genuinely grateful. Kathleen Norrispoints out in her book, Amazing Grace, thatto be grateful is to take a risk:

 

Analert human infant, at about one month of age begins to build a vocabularymaking sense of the chaos of sound that bombards the senses. . . Eventually therudiments of words come; often “Mama,” “Dada,” and”Me,” and the all-purpose “No!” An unqualified”Yes” is a harder sell, to both children and adults. To say”yes” is to make a leap of faith, to risk oneself in a new and oftenscary relationship. Not being quite sure of what we are doing or where it willlead us, we try on assent, we commit ourselves to affirmation. With luck, wefind our efforts are rewarded. The vocabulary of faith begins.

 

BrotherDavid Steindl Rast tells us, in Gratefulness:The Heart of Prayer, that gratitude is the pivot on which love rest. Withoutgratitude, there cannot be love.

 

Wegrow in love when we grow in gratefulness. And we grow in gratefulness when wegrow in love. Here is the link between the two: thanksgiving pivots on ourwillingness to go beyond our independence and to accept the give-and-takebetween giver and thanks-giver. But the “yes” which acknowledges ourinterdependent is the very “yes” to belonging, the “yes” oflove. Every time we say a simple “thank you,” and mean it, we practicethat inner gesture of “yes.” And the more difficult it is to saygrateful “yes,” the more we grow by learning to say it gracefully.

 

Finally,Roshi John Daido Loori, a teacher of Zen, highlights the power of gratitude as adaily practice:

 

Expressinggratitude is transformative, just as transformative as expressing complaint.Imagine an experiment involving two people. One is asked to spend ten minuteseach morning and evening expressing gratitude (there is always something to begrateful for), while the other is asked to spend the same amount of timepracticing complaining (there is, after all, always something to complainabout). One of the subjects is saying things like, “I hate my job. I can’tstand this apartment. Why can’t I make enough money? My spouse doesn’t get alongwith me. That dog next door never stops barking and I just can’t stand thisneighborhood.” The other is saying things like, “I’m really gratefulfor the opportunity to work; there are so many people these days who can’t evenfind a job. And I’m sure grateful for my health. What a gorgeous day; I reallylike this fall breeze.” They do this experiment for a year. Guaranteed, atthe end of that year the person practicing complaining will have deeplyreaffirmed all his negative “stuff” rather than having let it go,while the one practicing gratitude will be a very grateful person. . .Expressing gratitude can, indeed, change our way of seeing ourselves and theworld.

 

Youare invited to join us this Thursday, for our sitting, for the practice of EarthTouching, and for a dharma discussion on gratitude.

 

Wewill have one final informal pre-sessionon discussion on basic practice and mindfulness in daily life, from 6:30 to 7:20 p.m. Next month we return to our practice of having one pre-session Orientation /Discussion per month on the first Thursday of each month.

 

On May 21–23, 2004, the Mindfulness Practice Center of Fairfax is offering a weekendretreat at Claymont Court in West Virginia. Dharma teachers Anh-Huong Nguyen and Thu Nguyen will focus the weekend onEmbracing Joy. For more information, go to http://www.crpcv.org/mpcf/Retreat-2004-May.html.

 

Thankyou for the gifts you bring to the Still Water community and the world.

 

Warmwishes,

 

Mitchell

SeniorTeacher

Discussion Date: Thu, Apr 29, 2004


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