Dear Still Water Friends,
This Thursday Evening, after our sitting, we will practice the Five Touchings of the Earth, a guided movement-mediation that helps us develop our appreciation for what we have received and for who we are. During the Five Touchings we bring our attention to some of the many gifts we have received, and in focusing on them in mindfulness, our appreciation grows.
many of us our tendency is to focus on what’s not working; our minds scan for
problems to attend to and fix (or complain about). When there is a big storm and
our lights are out and the house is cold, a tree branch is on our car, and in
the office, water is dripping from the ceiling onto our computer, we bemoan our
fate. But when it is all working, when the house is light and warm, the car
reliable, and our computer waiting for us to begin our work, we usually ignore
the people and condition who make our life comfortable. We look for something
else to be upset about, something to complain about: “Darn it, we are out of
almond-coconut delight ice cream.”
Why is it so hard (and seemingly so rare) to be genuinely grateful. Kathleen Norris points out in her book, Amazing Grace, that to be grateful is to take a risk:
An alert human infant, at about one month of age begins to build a vocabulary making sense of the chaos of sound that bombards the senses. . . Eventually the rudiments of words come; often "Mama," "Dada," and "Me," and the all-purpose "No!" An unqualified "Yes" is a harder sell, to both children and adults. To say "yes" is to make a leap of faith, to risk oneself in a new and often scary relationship. Not being quite sure of what we are doing or where it will lead us, we try on assent, we commit ourselves to affirmation. With luck, we find our efforts are rewarded. The vocabulary of faith begins.
Brother David Steindl Rast tells us, in Gratefulness: The Heart of Prayer, that gratitude is the pivot on which love rest. Without gratitude, there cannot be love.
We grow in love when we grow in gratefulness. And we grow in gratefulness when we grow in love. Here is the link between the two: thanksgiving pivots on our willingness to go beyond our independence and to accept the give-and-take between giver and thanks-giver. But the "yes" which acknowledges our interdependent is the very "yes" to belonging, the "yes" of love. Every time we say a simple "thank you," and mean it, we practice that inner gesture of "yes." And the more difficult it is to say grateful "yes," the more we grow by learning to say it gracefully.
Finally, Roshi John Daido Loori, a teacher of Zen, highlights the power of gratitude as a daily practice:
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.
You are invited to join us this Thursday, for our sitting, for the practice of Earth Touching, and for a dharma discussion on gratitude.
We will have one final informal pre-session on discussion on basic practice and mindfulness in daily life, from to Next month we return to our practice of having one pre-session Orientation / Discussion per month on the first Thursday of each month.
Thank you for the gifts you bring to the Still Water community and the world.