Grace and Gratitude

It's an unlikely time for gratitude, yet we will celebrate Thanksgiving this year in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the depression. We will do this at a time when America is deeply divided, confused and fearful. If you listen to the pundits you may feel more gloomy. So you might want to start this holiday season by slowing down and simplifying your life. You might try turning down the volume on the news, or better yet, go on a media fast. Try it. Turn off the T.V. Invite some friends to share a meal together. It doesn't have to be elaborate. It doesn't have to be turkey. It could be tofu. If you're alone, try feeding some ducks or squirrels. Play some music. Do something creative. And even though the day after Thanksgiving is the best shopping day during the whole year, you might want to avoid the stress and anxiety of wrestling with savvy consumers in over-crowded department stores. Perhaps a quiet walk in nature among trees and birds would be kinder for your spirit.

Living a Zen-inspired life begins by changing your lifestyle. It begins with the intention to pay attention. You simply cannot do this if you are constantly multi-tasking. So it's a lifestyle change. You need to slow down. With this kind of shift and greater appreciation for the small things in your life comes greater happiness, joy and the grace of gratitude. For instance, notice that right now you are breathing. Just breathing is taking place. It's so ordinary you could easily miss it. Someday you will stop breathing and as you struggle to take your last breath it won't seem so ordinary. If you reflect on this for even a moment, you might be astonished by the mystery of your life, blessed with grace and gratitude.

The enemy of gratitude is fear. The quickest way to kill compassion and kindness of spirit in yourself is to give in to fear. When you give way to fear, you begin to worry and fret about everything. And there is really no end to these kind of pre-occupied, obsessive thoughts. They quickly rob you of all grace and you forget that you're breathing at all.

It's not hard to experience gratitude. It's about trust. Trust life itself. Trust your life. You are unconditionally good and all life is sacred. When you trust in this way, you will find some strength for lifting yourself up when you feel discouraged and gratitude for each breath that lightens your way.

Robert Althouse