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“Expressing gratitude is transformative, just as transformative as expressing complaint. Imagine an experiment involving two people. One is asked to spend ten minutes each morning and evening expressing gratitude (there is always something to be grateful for), while the other is asked to spend the same amount of time practicing complaining (there is, after all, always something to complain about). One of the subjects is saying things like, "I hate my job. I can't stand this apartment. Why can't I make enough money? My spouse doesn't get along with me. That dog next door never stops barking and I just can't stand this neighborhood." The other is saying things like, "I'm really grateful for the opportunity to work; there are so many people these days who can't even find a job. And I'm sure grateful for my health. What a gorgeous day; I really like this fall breeze." They do this experiment for a year. Guaranteed, at the end of that year the person practicing complaining will have deeply reaffirmed 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 the world."
-Roshi John Daido Loori
Essay On Gratitude - Marc Gafni
Shifts in our thinking, from dull expectancy to joyful appreciation, can occur if we regularly and mindfully draw our attention to everything, however small, that brings us joy and happiness. One way of systematically chronicling this is the adoption of a gratitude journal – just a simple inventory of what comes to us with joy and delight. It could be a phone call from a good friend, an unexpected but welcomed letter, a lovely warm summer’s day or a smile on the face of an endearing child. It not always the bigger issues that need recording, although they do seem to grab our attention, but the very minutiae of life that often go by unnoticed. Our thoughts in these pages could always be embraced and utilized in our meditation practice and prayers to reinforce what positive feelings have surfaced within us. However, one word of warning – we must endeavour to undertake this practice in a genuine, authentic way as a natural expression of our heart-felt desire to recognise the joy of gifts. We cannot enforce this feeling upon ourselves because of guilt or the need to demonstrate, to significant others, a projected image that is, in reality misleading and wrong. Best be true to ourselves, our innermost feelings, rather than pretend otherwise, then we can start to address what it is that is holding us back, stopping us from experiencing a deep appreciation of a life that is given.
The traditional Zen story of the Ten Bulls shows that feelings of gratitude do not always come easily….It’s the tale of a discontented young man who leaves his village in search of enlightenment, only to find it in the very place that he had left. It’s the story of homecoming, or to be more precise re-discovery. Our young man embarks on a spiritual quest that leads him off to adventure. He eventually attains his goal of insight and in the process is filled with gratitude but it happens in the very place he had left. But without the journey, without the struggle he would have never discovered it. The journey itself was essential for him to find it.