New Incentive for Continuing Education (NICE) presents:
Another Word for Joy: Lesson 3
Once upon a time, I took an Appreciation of Music class. Maybe because it seemed like an easy elective. I had very low expectations. I didn’t think that I might learn something that would stay with me for decades.
This is what I learned: When you pay attention, there is a lot going on. When you pay attention, you can hear things you never would have noticed. And the music you are listening to becomes more complicated, more artistic. More amazing.
Gratitude is appreciation. It is paying attention to things that exist, to things that happen. And in paying attention, we find that life gets more amazing.
Welcome to Lesson 3: Grrrrrrrrratitude.
I used to be very skeptical about gratitude. How could gratitude make you happy? Wasn’t it just being passive and being thankful for things that would happen anyway?
An attitude of gratitude can help you find something to appreciate even in hard times. Maybe you are going through a divorce, or you have lost a loved one, and it seems like nothing is going right… and then all the traffic lights are green on the way to a meeting, or that song you love plays on the radio. When you take a moment to notice the small wonders, you are lifting ever so slightly the burdens of life.
Gratitude is an upward movement, a freeing, a loosening. it doesn’t bring you down or bind you, it lifts.
Homework #1: Thank You
Carry a pen and paper or a smart phone with you as you go about your day. When you notice something that you can be grateful for, write a note that starts with “Thank you for…”. Your thank yous can be for small things like smiles or working pens, or big things like important events or life-changing moments. List at least five things that have given you a lift.
In this lesson, your goal is to pay attention and develop an appreciation for the things and people around you. Your life is like a symphony, and you have the best seat in the house.
Another aspect of gratitude that took a while for me to understand is the link between giving and gratitude. Many people tithe as part of their religious practices, and as an outsider, this seemed like a heavy burden to put on your parishioners.
It was only when I understood that tithing is a form of gratitude that it became clear why people are willing to tithe. It is a way of saying that you are grateful for the blessings you have already received.
And in that lovely way that life has of balancing things out, gratitude is often associated with blessings to come. Giving and receiving.
Which brings us to the next question: How do we show our gratitude? Sometimes we feel gratitude without expressing it.
Gratitude can be expressed in many ways. Maybe it is through tithing, or simply saying “thank you”. Perhaps you have found a different way of showing gratitude – a way to give or share that expresses your thankfulness for what you have experienced.
Homework #2: What is it Worth?
Just as an exercise, let’s think about the good things in our lives, and try to pin a value on them. We have gratitude because there are things and people we cannot control that make our lives better. It may seem like the world runs on money, but we cannot buy the most precious moments. How much is a smile worth? How much would you pay for a beautiful fall day? What is it worth to have a loved one returned safely from battle? Think about the things you are grateful for and imagine that you are presented with a bill for them… how would that feel? Just make some notes on your thoughts and reaction to this exercise.
I really wanted to avoid this phrase, but an “attitude of gratitude” is really the best way to say it. Paying attention to the blessings of life, no matter how small, can make each day better. When we are building a foundation of Joy, gratitude is one of our best tools.
Here is a post on the “koan of gratitude”. Enjoy. http://sharanam.tumblr.com/post/1146986625/what-is-gratitude-is-a-koan-i-often-give-people
For Lesson 3 credit, you must either post your Homework answers as a comment or send them to me in an e-mail.