The Practice of Gratitude

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Dear Still Water Friends,

This Thursday evening Annie Mahon and Jules Jarvis will share about the practice of gratitude. They write:

It dawned on us lately that gratitude doesn’t come in any religious form. No religion has dibs on gratitude. THANK GOODNESS. In fact, all religions and even secular humanists and atheists alike agree that gratitude is a good thing. Even science is backing up the benefits of expressing gratitude.

In one study on gratitude, conducted by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., at UC-Davis and Mike McCullough at the University of Miami, randomly assigned participants either described five things they were grateful that week, listed daily hassles, or wrote down five neutral events that affected them that week. Ten weeks later, participants in the group that wrote about their gratitude felt better about their lives as a whole and were 25 percent happier than the group that wrote about their difficulties. They even reported fewer health problems and exercised an average of 1.5 hours more.

Christian writer Anne Lamott wrote in her book, "Help, Thanks, Wow" about taking an afternoon drive around with her friend who has Lou Gehrig’s disease. Her friend who can no longer eat, drive, drink, speak was asked by Lamott during their drive, "What are you most grateful for these days?" and the friend typed on her iPad "The beauty of nature, the birds and flowers, and the beauty of friends." WOW!

Thich Nhat Hanh often reminds us that in any moment we already have enough conditions for happiness.

So how can we increase the gratitude in our lives? Our mindfulness practice can help us recognize the conditions for happiness for which we can have gratitude. After our sitting and walking meditation, we will have a chance to share our gratitudes with the circle.

Please join us this Thursday and bring your gratitudes to share with all of us.

At the bottom of this email is a gratitude meditation written by neuropsychologist Rick Hanson that you can try at home, and also, six short quotes on the gifts that gratitude offers us.

Warm wishes,

Annie and Jules

A Meditation on Gratitude

By Rick Hanson

Set aside a quiet time during which you can reflect on some of the many things you could be thankful for. As a starting point, you might read the passage below to yourself or out loud, adapting it to your situation as you like.

There really is so much to be thankful for.

I am grateful to my friends. For their good qualities, for the good things they have done for me. For the ways they are fun, for the good times we’ve had.

I am grateful for my children – if I have any – for the delight and love they bring, for the sweet smell of their hair and the soft touch of their skin. For the first time they smiled at

me or walked into my arms. For the meaning they bring to life. For receiving my love and lessons. For being their own persons, for giving me their own love and lessons.

Having them at all is a miracle, and the rest is details.

I appreciate myself. For the love I have given to others, for all the conversations had, for all the helpful acts toward others, for all the dishes done. For the long hours I’ve

worked, the hoops I’ve jumped through to keep all those balls up in the air. For the efforts I’ve made, the many times I’ve stayed patient, the many times I’ve found more

to give inside when I thought I was empty.

I appreciate my lovers and mates, past and present. I can focus on one of these persons, perhaps my spouse or mate if I’m currently in a relationship, and bring to mind the

ways he or she has been good to me. I appreciate the fun we’ve had together, the humor and the companionship. I feel grateful for the times of support, understanding, and

sympathy. For sweating and suffering too.

I feel thankful for the life I’ve already had, for the good parts of my childhood, for everything I’ve learned, for good friends and beautiful sights. For the roof over my

head and the bread on my table, for being able to have a life that is healthier, longer, and freer than most people have ever dreamed of. For this beautiful world, where each

breath is a gift of air, each dawn a gift of light. For the plants and animals that die so I may live. For the extraordinary gifts of evolution I carry in each cell of my body, for the

capabilities accumulated during three and a half billion years of life’s presence on our planet.

I feel thankful for the wonder of the universe, for all the atoms in my body—the carbon in my bones, the oxygen and iron in my blood—that were born in the heart of a star

billions of years ago, to drift through space, to form a sun and planets, to form the hand that holds this piece of paper and the eye that reads this word.

I feel thankful for all that was in order for me to be. For grace, for wisdom, for the sacred, for spirit as I know it. For this moment, this breath, this sight. For every good

thing that was, that is, that ever will be.

Six Reflections on Gratitude

"Gratitude opens the door to power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe. You open the door through gratitude." Deepak Chopra

"The miracle of gratitude is that it shifts your perception to such an extent that it changes the world you see." Dr. Robert Holden

"For me every hour is grace. And I feel gratitude in my heart each time I can meet someone and look at his or her smile." Elie Wessel

"Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayers." Maya Angelou

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘thank-you’ that would suffice." Meister Ekhart

"When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect towards others." Dalai Lama

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