Developing an Attitude of Gratitude
The well-known book “Be Here Now” was written by Ram Das in 1971, and the title continues to be a reminder to be attentive to the present moment. However within the mental state of being “present” is a broad range of emotional responses to the moment. So in this season of Thanksgiving I am thinking more about a quotation from Abdul-Baha, son of the Founder of the Baha’i Faith. He wrote in the early 1900’s “If we are not happy and joyous at this season, for what other season shall we wait and for what other time shall we look?”
If I am not happy now, if I am not content now, then I have missed the point — which is that my life is full of blessings and that my circumstances need not define my attitude. I cannot always control what happens to me, but I certainly can control my reaction to it.
Without trivializing or disregarding the depth and breadth of the world’s problems — or, that matter, present concerns or worries in my own life - I am thinking now about items that sometimes seem to occupy (too) much of my time and attention.
Hopelessly behind in my reading as well as a huge backlog of emails to answer and letters to write? At least I can read and write. Here in North America, 7% of the people are “functional illiterates”.
Groceries are getting low and I haven’t time to go shopping, plus food prices have gone up? World-wide almost 9% of the people are malnourished; and in many places the figure is well over 50%.
My car needs body work, and transportation to work is getting tedious? World-wide only about 10% of the people even own a car. And many millions of people walk long distances, just to get water for their families.
Noisy neighbor kids playing in the backyard? These are happy sounds. What if I were hearing gunshots or bombs instead?
House messy with unfinished projects? Feel I need some time-off from work to take care of things and also to relax? With the national unemployment rate close to 9%, I am fortunate to have a job. And even better, my job allows me vacation leave. And yes, the laundry will get done, too.
Deadline upon me for submitting this column? I am fortunate to live in a country where freedom of speech is guaranteed, even encouraged. It’s hard to imagine living without newspapers, freedom of the press, open dialogue – and instead to be repressed and censored. However that is the daily truth for much of the world.
So the more I think about it, the more I realize how fortunate I am. With such a stable foundation from which to live, I am indeed better able to deal with the more serious matters in my life. And, most importantly, I am able to give time and attention to the larger world. As I do this, I am truly thankful for the many blessings in my life.
© Jaellayna Palmer 2009