Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Expressing Gratitude

Last week I received a letter from a church proclaiming that miracles can only happen in an atmosphere of gratitude. 

I belong to a group on Facebook called Thanks a Million!- A Daily Gratitude Group.  The purpose of the group is to provide a public forum for each of us to state our gratitude for the blessings we receive.  The group administrator believes that everyone should have a daily gratitude practice for spiritual health. 

In my Meditation Handbook, beginners are encouraged to commence practice through contemplation of "our precious human life."  In Buddhist meditation, practitioners begin with gratitude as a cornerstone. 

Gratitude supposedly has its own unique holiday: Thanksgiving!  When I was growing up, I spent Thanksgiving at my paternal grandmother's home.  She had four children, eleven grandchildren, and a number of great-grandchildren that I am unable to count with accuracy.  She instituted a tradition of standing in a family circle while holding hands as each family member stated to the others the blessings for which we were thankful.  She always cried when she spoke of her gratitude.  As a child, I was unable to fully comprehend the importance of gratitude and humility and as an adult, I have still not mastered these lessons.  I feel in my heart that my grandmother mastered gratitude and humility during her lifetime.  I didn't get to know her as well as I would have liked, but I know that she was a deeply spiritual person.  I hope that she is somewhere now that allows her to guide the rest of us on our quest to attain these high qualities. 

Meditating on gratitude and expressing it through prayer are very powerful practices.  Recognizing the blessings in our lives and letting them sink into our consciousness can transform us from within.  We will know that we have been transformed when we begin to display that gratitude to the other people in our lives.  I make an effort to do this, but I know that I do not always succeed. 

I do express my gratitude through spoken words, and sometimes through written notes.  My mother and matnernal grandmother applied consistent and diligent effort in training me to write notes of thanks, so my occasional failure to do so as an adult is certainly no fault of theirs. 

I express gratitude through tipping 20% at restaurants, salons and spas (whenever I am blessed enough to go into such heavenly places!)  When I used to take cabs, I would normally tip at least 10% of the fare. 

I try as much as I can to express my gratitude to our childcare provider by thanking her at every opportunity and through accomodating her needs.  Sometimes I know that I am thoughtless and I arrive later than I promised so that she can go home.  I hope that she knows how grateful I am for the love that she gives to my children, and I can see how much they love her back. 

There are certain categories of professionals where I am uncertain as to the proper expression of thanks.  How do we thank our doctors?  I thank them verbally and I try to be respectful and understanding of their time.  How do we thank alternative health practitoners?  Rather than tipping, which in my mind is somewhat insulting to a healer, I have tried to show genuine respect for their unique talents.  What about nurses?  I know that when my two sons were born, my nurses were the most crucial care providers and the greatest source of support to me in those first few hours and days.  We sent food to their floor after leaving the hospital, but I think that nurses in particular can never be thanked enough.  How do we thank lawyers?  I used to work as a lawyer and I often felt that I was supposed to be grateful for the opportunity to work with a client, and not the other way around.  I think that is generally the way that the legal profession is supposed to work.  It is designed to be a helping profession, even if it does not always work that way.  How do we thank teachers?  Students and parents give holiday gifts to teachers and this is a wonderful way to express our thanks for selfless and essential work, but like nurses, teachers are some of the hardest working and least appreciated members of our society. 

When I sit and think of every person who deserves my gratitude, the list is endless.  I have a favorite checkout man at the grocery store who consistently brightens my day.  Our mail carrier is always prompt, reliable and friendly.  Several business owners in our town make a point of speaking to my children and giving them gifts on a regular basis.  I am helped by an individual who is completely new to me at least weekly.  I don't know if it's possible for me to outwardly thank each person who helps me or my family. 

Lately I am trying to remember everyone who touches my life in prayer and meditation.  For me, this is the most powerful means of sending love and gratitude.  I was taught as a child to "remember others in prayer", but it is only now that I am coming to an experience of what that means and how such a practice can change me for the better.  In focusing on gratitude in meditation, I am slowly becoming more aware of others and less fixated on my own needs.  Perhaps this is one available path in learning to "love thy neighbor as thyself." 

Since I am still learning the practice of gratitude, I will continue to contemplate new ways to show my thanks. 

Here is one new capacity that makes me feel grateful, and if I can I'll recite it at the table this Thanksgiving:  I am grateful for the ability to continually correct myself and adjust my views to get closer to Love.  As long as these adjustments stem from spirit rather than ego, I believe that they are valuable. 

I am very interested to learn how others show gratitude and how I can improve upon this practice in the future.


  1. I am also interested in the practice of gratitude. I think that it is becoming a lost art unfortunately, and I just hate it when people seem ungrateful.It's something I struggle with regularly, because I'm often unsure of where that line is between being ungrateful and just wanting or needing a little sympathy from another human. I'm always glad when Thanksgiving comes around every year and reminds me to reset my gratitude meter.

  2. Wonderful! This is the Big One Michelle! Being able to be grateful about everything is truely Divine Grace. I say it out loud all the time. I tell others all the time too.

    I bless people out loud too...sometimes they are taken aback. I know that this is diferent for all of us...and most of this has to do with our Ego. I know this are on the right path for you...and from your writings I can say I am grateful for that.

  3. Michelle, this is very insightful and appropriate especially at this time of year. I am reminded of the story of Jesus that after healing ten lepers, only one returned to personally thank Him.

  4. Wow, Michelle! This really hit home for me. I have so much to be thankful for. Right now I have a job that pays me well. I know many others don't at this time. I am richly blessed. I have a family that loves me. I have beautiful memories of many people who have come and gone in my life for whatever reason. I have a wonderful loving partner. I need to be expressing my thankfulness. I still have a living Grandmother in Joplin who is so precious to me. I can't wait to hug her this coming week! Thank you for reminding me. Like G.G., I am crying thinking about all I am thankful for. Let me tell you that I am also thankful for you. You continue to teach me valuable lessons. I love you.

  5. Zahra, Reid, Daddy and Cheryl: Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I wish that I could have you all over for a feast!