Tag Archives: gratitude

looking into gratitude

this morning, i visited chitowngreg’s sunday post about gratitude. it was fabulous to see all the comments there – 48 at the time i was visiting.

and then of course my research brain got curious. what a great treasure trove to delve a little into to find out what specific things people are grateful for! i spent a few hours to analyze it a bit and cam up with a few surprises and a few things that were expected.

family was the biggest theme. i found 25 mentions of it. most of them were about children, e.g.

three wonderful children with their own uniqueness

and almost as many about spouses, e.g.

climbing into my warm bed, with my husband who loves me, and listening to the rain softly falling all night long……

then a surprise – the next category in “family” was dogs, before mothers, etc.:

for dogs who never tire of seeing me.

chitowngreg’s blog is a 12-step blog, so understandably, there were a lot (21) of expressions of gratitude about recovery and 12-step programs, like

i watched, “crazy heart”, last night. a story about an alcoholic country singer/ songwriter. made me very grateful for my sobriety and the second chance i was given.

indirectly, some of the comments where gratitude is expressed for those kinds of things would also fall into other categories such as spirituality and friends (because of the strong fellowship aspect of 12 steps). i found surprisingly few (5) for friends (“the companionship of friends”) and 4 for spirituality (e.g. “playing ave maria in a little while at mass this morning”).

i was also not necessarily surprised but perhaps “pleasantly confirmed” that those gratitudes contained none of the cultishness that 12-steppers are sometimes accused of.

another topic that came up frequently was basic needs, possibly inspired by greg’s intro to the post about how lucky most of us are. if your combined household income is over $ $26,400 a year, you’re in the top 10% of all income earners in the world. think about that. for many of us westerners, that’s mind boggling. when i think of how many people i know who are wringing their hands because they only make $25 an hour, it’s refreshing to hear this

thank god for running water!

and then there were more comments (14) about the weather/nature than there were about health (11)! that was perhaps the biggest surprise. i would have expected for health to be right up there with family. of course this is anything but a scientific research project – still, i find this remarkable, something i’m thinking of following up (maybe i’ll write one of my brainblogger articles about this sometime soon). loved this comment:

i’m grateful to have had a glorious weekend on the boat and that this afternoon there was a wonderful thunderstorm. we came back through the rain but were safe. nature in all its power!

another surprise: of all the gratitudes i looked at (about 140 altogether), this was the only one that explicitly mentioned nature.

here’s one about health:

i’m grateful today that i can think and speak in words. a dear friend is wordless after a brain hemorrhage, and it’s very hard.

other things that were mentioned more than once, with some examples, and in order of occurrence:


i’m grateful to have blogs that allow me to reconfirm i am doing the right thing in my life.

gratitude itself
people like you who remind me why i should be grateful when i’m grouchy just because its monday

personal growth

having the courage to ask “what am i going to do,” rather than sitting in pity saying “why”

mornings (that was another surprise – mentioned 7 times)

the possibilities of the whole day in front of me

also home, work, baseball (!!!) and peace.

saying grace

carrotsthere were a number of posts recently about saying grace, for example at maggi dawn’s blog. “why say grace in a world without god?” seemed to be one of the questions. also, “how to say grace without thanking god?”

for today, i will spare you my grumblings about interpretations of who or what god is. i’m just going to give a few gratitudes for the humble carrot i had in my soup today:

  • to the cashier who rung it in
  • to my daughter who carried it up the stairs
  • to the many people who built the fridge where it cooled – or rather, the fridges – three or four at least, i’m sure
  • to the grocery clerk who put it on display
  • to the grocery clerk’s teacher who taught her how to handle food safely
  • to the truck drivers who carted my carrot all over the place
  • to the friendly waitress who kept the truck driver supplied with coffee
  • to the factory worker who made the cellophane bag for the carrot
  • to the mechanic who fixed the carrot farmer’s tractor
  • to the worms who made good earth for the carrot

all good people (and worms) to say thanks to.

image by color line

there but for the grace of god go i: sunday inspiration

just musing over a few things here, inspired by some of the blogs i read …

at nourish, a bittersweet post about jacqueline du pres, one of the most amazing musicians of the last century. this genius young cellist graced the world of classical music for a short 12 years. then her blazing light was consumed by multiple sclerosis. i spent much of last night hunting down her videos, gobbling up the beauty and fervor of this fierce nordic goddess. “a glenn gould of the cello”, i kept thinking – something about the way she physically throws herself into her work, at the edge of being ridiculously dramatic; and like a true artist, she remains at the edge, drawing us there, into her magic. “her” magic; a magic conjured up by her but compelling because it isn’t just her little thing – it’s the stuff of gods, and thus a piece of everyone’s soul.

this grandness stands now beside the voracious power of multiple sclerosis. i was going to say it was swept away, aside, under the carpet but that’s not true. the grandness of her music remains, but not by itself. the illness claimed a big piece of this amazing woman.

from grand to small. another post i came across was this here, about a mother and her partner killing, slowly killing a beautiful child, baby grace. blond like little jacqueline when she first touched a cello. their demons consumed a child just like MS consumed jacqueline. why small? why do i want to call this small? perhaps when i think of “grand” i think of generosity, of a big heart, perhaps of jacqueline’s heart because only a big heart can hold music like that. only a small, shrivelled up, poisoned heart can do what these people did. “only”? what do i know, what do i know of hearts – but that is what i imagine. a big heart, i envision, opens its arms and says, yes! yes! a small heart closes in on itself, cutting everything short, within and without. after a while the opening and the closing becomes a habit. the arms throw open wide and the span gets larger and larger, grander. it becomes more and more unthinkable, undoable to spend much time with arms crossed and the heart closed. it goes the other way, too, i think. the shrivelling becomes more and more closed in on itself, and even the slightest opening of mind, heart, arms, eyes and soul is a threat that can only be met with armour and weapon.

a little child is always open. a threat extinguished by shrivelled hearts.

there but for the grace of god go i. there are myriad imperfections in my life. one, for example: i used to volunteer at an extended care home. there was a woman with MS, the same age as jacqueline du pres in her last years. i visited her often. one day, things became too busy for me and i stopped visiting. i never even really said good-bye to that woman. a sin for which i am ashamed to this day. there are many transgressions i have committed but i have never killed another human being.

i’m reading an interesting book right now, zen shin talks, by socho koshin ogui, the current bishop of the buddhist churches of america. one of the talks is headed, “are you grateful that you have not killed even one person?” in that talk, he cites shinran, the founder of shin buddhism (also called pure land buddhism) who talks to one of his disciples about why he has never killed anyone:

it is not because you have a good mind or even a good heart or because you are a good person. you are fortunate because present conditions and situations do not allow you to kill even one person. aren’t you grateful that your present conditions and situations are such that you do not have to kill even one person? if the conditions and situations changed, you don’t know what you would do.

self-righteousness does not work: being proud of myself for never having killed anyone does not make my heart bigger. humbleness and gratefulness give my heart a chance to grow.

which brings me to the last blog for today. sojourner is a beacon of humbleness.  it was her post there but for god’s grace go i that prompted me to participate in her sunday inspiration theme with these words here.

thanksgiving, peace, metta

no more war“may there be peace” – what a strange and faraway thing to say about mumbai in the middle of this destructive chaos. and yet. may there be peace.

may there be peace in iraq. peace like i have among my friends, peace i am grateful for.

may there be peace in the congo. peace like we have in our family, peace i am grateful for.

may there be peace in afghanistan. peace like we have here in canada, peace i am grateful for.

may there be peace in thailand. peace like i have at work, peace i am grateful for.

may there be peace for all those frightened by the current economic upheavals. peace like the peace i have in prayer and meditation, peace i am grateful for.

may there be peace for my neighbours who are going through divorce. peace like i have in my loving household, peace i am grateful for.

may there be peace for my clients restless with worry whether they will find a job. peace like i have in the walks through this beautiful city, peace i am grateful for.

may there be peace for my writer friends, who are using words to dig themselves out of desperation. peace like i am given by watching our beautiful cat, peace i am grateful for.

may there be peace for everyone, right now, this moment, who is pacing the floor agitated by mental illness. peace like i get from many good nights’ sleep, peace i am grateful for.

may the blessings of peace that have been given to me so abundantly flow over, into the nooks and crannies of my neighbourhood, onto the city, the continent, may they join with everyone else’s overflowing blessings and touch the world.

may our friends and enemies, all humans and animals, all created beings, may we all have peace, freedom, health and happiness.

the image of the hiroshima peace memorial park comes from hira3

blogathon: overeating and “enough”

change therapy is the home of the carnival of eating disorders. i’ll put up the “easy” version of the carnival on the promised date (july 31). for this blogathon, i’d like to feature three articles that have been contributed.

for this post, we’ll look at carol solomon’s stress eating: “not enoughness”

do you feel like you don’t have enough?

enough time . . . money . . . love?

or that you “aren’t” enough . . . not good enough . . . not worthy enough?

this is scarcity thinking, and it can show up in a lot of really subtle, sneaky places.

where does “not enough” show up in your life? i’ll tell you where it shows up in mine.

on the airplane, i worry about not having “enough space” to store my bags . . .
i worry about not having “enough time” to accomplish what i want . . . both on a daily basis . . . and being on this earth long enough to make a difference in the world. …

practice noticing when this subtle “not enough” feeling emerges for you (we all have it). when you feel it, you know that a gremlin (self-saboteur) is at work. it may be just the signal you need to “do” less, or to know that something in your life needs to change.

carol solomon also suggests to write gratitude lists, to practice receiving, and to connect. i like what she has to say here

have you ever gone out with friends and had a wonderful time connecting and just being together? it’s very fulfilling, and you don’t feel the need to fill up with food. fostering a sense of community helps you feel less isolated in the world. when you do things that fulfill you, you don’t need to “fill up” with food.

the topic of “enough” is fascinating, and i have written about it here.

much compulsive overeating is about a sense of not having enough. it might be very directly related to food – e.g. for a person who grew up in poverty. it can also relate to other things. is there enough love, enough attention, enough pleasure? if not, is food used to fill the hole? sometimes the deprivation was in the past but food has become such an easy way to get what we want that the gravy train just keeps on running, despite changed circumstances.

and of course food is just one way to fill the hole. the “drug of choice” to get that elusive feeling of enoughness can be anything else – heroin, shopping, working, the internet …

does any of this resonate?

next blog post in the eating disorders section of this blogathon: sexy at any size!

this is an entry for my participation in the 2008 blogathon, a 24-hour marathon of blogging. please support the cause and donate – however much, however little – to the canadian mental health association (vancouver/burnaby branch). to donate, use this URL: www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=d2252. you should be able to get there by clicking the link;if not, just copy and paste the link into your browser. it will take you to the appropriate location at canada helps. thank you!

thanks, violeta

the other day, i came across pensieve, who is challenging the blogosphere to come up with a thanksgiving limerick.

since i’ve been digging back into my chilean songs lately, i came up with this harebrained idea of trying to turn violeta parra’s gracias a la vida into a limerick. it doesn’t do justice to violeta’s beautiful poem and music – but it was a great opportunity to look more deeply into violeta parra’s art. maybe i’ll write a post about her one day – the story of her struggles with mental illness, her creativity and her social activism certainly fits well into this blog.

so, pensieve, here’s my thanksgiving limerick:

life, thank you, you’ve given me so much:
stars, mountains, words, legs, eyes and love.
a heart full of joy
and room, too, for sorrow,
and a song to share with my brothers.

for a link to mercedes sosa singing this song, the spanish lyrics and a translation into the english, visit mikkelina.

thanksgiving all over the place

in my post yesterday i referred to the thanksgiving weekend. some of you readers in the US might have thought that i ought to take the confucius on confusion course i talked about the day before.  thanksgiving isn’t until late in november!

but, actually, this time i’m not confused. i could have pointed out, of course, that canadian thanksgiving is this weekend, about six weeks before the one in the US.

as you know, gratitude is an important topic on this blog so i’d like to talk a bit about thanksgiving festivals that some of you may not know very much about.

here in canada, we celebrate thanksgiving on the second monday in october. apparently, the first time it was celebrated by caucasians was by captain james frobisher who was thankful that he had survived a long journey in 1578, almost 50 years before the famous pilgrim’s thanksgiving in the US. says david watts in an article on canadian thanksgiving

frobisher sailed under elizabeth I, whose reign was marked by gratitude from beginning to end. for her first 20 years she held public thanksgiving simply for having lived to ascend the throne.

thanksgiving, of course, is a harvest festival, and neither canadians nor americans “invented” it. harvest festivals are as old and varied as agriculture, and maybe they were even held in hunter-gatherer cultures. so naturally, there were pre-colonial harvest celebrations among our first nations, such as the iroquois haudenosaunee, whose thanksgiving prayer you can read here.

germany, where i come from, has a harvest celebration in the christian churches that is held on the first sunday of october. it’s called “erntedankfest” (literally, “erntedankfest, or thanksgiving, in germanyharvest thanks feast”). in a tradition that, like so many christian celebrations, clearly harkens back to pagan times, church altars are richly decorated with bundles of wheat, apples, flowers, cornucopias and other goodies. some towns and villages have processions with decorated tractors and other agricultural implements.

another harvest celebration that’s important for people living in vancouver, which has a high proportion of people with a chinese background, is the mid-autumn or moon cake festival. it has been celebrated in asia for the last 3,000 years and falls on the week of the full moon closest to fall equinox. equal in importance to chinese new year, it is a time of family and togetherness – and a time for eating absolutely delicious moon cakes

(thanks to swamibu and tin-g for the images)

grateful in seattle

yesterday my daughter, my grandson and i went on a trip to seattle, to meet with some of my daughter’s online friends. they took us to the aquarium – what a fabulous place! fish, art, education, photography, fun, otters, starfish and so much more, all in one place. can’t wait to go there again.

what i really want to tell you about, though, on this thanksgiving weekend, is about a 10-second encounter with a young man.

after a pilgrimage to the cheesecake factory and getting terrifyingly lost, we went to QFC to stock up on cheap booze and weird american junk food. then down to the parking garage to load it all up and pack up the three gazillion doodahs you carry around with you when you’re with a baby.

as we’re putting things away, we hear a voice, “is this your backpack?”

and indeed, it was mine. the one with my passport in it. the one with the visa in it that took me three hours to get in the long-weekend line-up at the border. i had completely forgotten about it.

the young man, obviously a QFC employee, just handed me the backpack, i thanked him profusely, and he disappeared.

but the feeling of gratitude hasn’t left me ever since. sick with a cold to begin with and a little spooked by having gotten lost, the idea of arriving at the border 2 ½ hours later, in the middle of the night, without my passport, and probably not having a clue where i’d lost it, made me shudder.

with just a bit of thougtfulness and taking a minute or two to track us down, this young man (and probably also the super-nice cashier with whom we had briefly chatted earlier), saved us from hours of great discomfort.

i am so moved by that. there is so very little we often need to do to dramatically improve someone’s day.

thank you, people at QFC. thank you.

thank you.

(this post appeared in gonzo’s carnival of cities as well as the thumbs up carnival)