The Thankful Heart

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It’s easy to become immune to, and much less grateful for, the small things in our lives. We allow our feelings of being overwhelmed and our yearning for achievement and material satisfaction to overshadow the precious little gems of life that are all around us.

In our quest to experience the more seductive and exciting “highs,” we have lost sight of the fact that most of life, indeed a vast majority of it, is made up of small things and moments, one right after the other.

Learning to appreciate these things and moments play a huge role in creating a peaceful and happy life. Although the things themselves may be small, failing to appreciate them has really big ramifications!

The failure to acknowledge and, indeed, appreciate the small things breeds an inability to be touched by life. The wonder and awe of life is diminished, the feelings associated with appreciation and gratitude are missed, and, perhaps more than anything, you’ll be sweating the small stuff all the time. The reason this happens is that when your attention isn’t on what’s right, beautiful, special and mysterious, it will be on what’s wrong, what’s irritating, and what’s missing. Your focus of attention will encourage you to be “on edge” and on the lookout for problems instead of the small things that bring you big joy and are right in front of you.

Unfortunately, this type of attention feeds on itself and becomes a way of seeing and experiencing the world. You’ll be too busy thinking about the condescending remark you over heard at lunch or the way your blouse doesn’t look quite right to notice the friendly smile of the checkout clerk or the beautiful art on the classroom wall.

On the other hand, when the bulk of your attention is on what’s right with your life, what’s precious and special, the payoff is enormous. You’ll re-experience the feeling that life is magical and every moment is to be treasured. Instead of complaining about the litter on the side of the road, you’ll notice the colors of the trees and plants. Again, your attention will feed on itself and, over time, you’ll notice more and more things to be grateful for. Your habit becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When you talk to anyone who is very sick or who has had a near death experience, they will tell you that the things you usually think are “big” are, in fact, relatively insignificant; whereas the things you think are small are, in fact, what’s most important. Money, for example, or physical beauty, or an accomplishment, or a material possession can seem to be the end-all, feeling extremely important, even more than life and death issues. Yet, when looking back on your life, it’s very likely that these things that once were in clear focus have lost their luster. They will seem less important, maybe even superficial. On the other hand, the beauty of nature, the touch of newborn fingers wrapped around your own, a lovely smile, or the gift of friendship, will be precious and indeed priceless. From an online article by Kristine Carlson http://www.positivelypositive.com/2012/07/20/be-grateful-for-the-small-things/

Never will I be as grateful as I could be. Any reminder to focus on the meaningful things is always welcome. No matter how much I improve my practice of thankfulness there is ALWAYS room to grow my gratitude.

The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies;
but let the thankful heart sweep through the day
and, as the magnet finds the iron,
so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!
Henry Ward Beecher

Allow Gratitude to Transform Your Life

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We all know that being grateful and appreciative is very beneficial, but have you ever noticed that it’s often easier said than done? Sometimes finding the good in a trying situation can by pretty challenging. Yet, the benefits of maintaining genuine gratitude and appreciation in spite of what’s going on around us are certainly worth looking into.

This is where focus comes to the rescue. You can actually transform your life by training yourself to search for, discover, and focus on legitimate reasons to feel grateful and appreciative.

We all have blessings in our life! No matter where we are, and regardless of what we might be going through, there are always things we can be grateful for. The challenge is to train ourselves to focus on gratitude, and to intuitively search for reasons to manifest appreciation. This may, or may not be your natural tendency, but with practice, all of us can certainly develop a predominate attitude of gratitude backed up with true expressions of appreciation.

Do you know someone who never has a bad word to say about anyone or anything? Someone who just naturally sees the silver lining, even around the darkest cloud? How do you feel when you are in the company of that person? Don’t you feel refreshed and positive?

What about the other end of the spectrum? Do you know someone who always needs to point out the negative aspect of every situation? How does that make you feel? Nobody feels empowered around someone like that, especially since negative attitudes can infect those who are exposed to them regularly.

When trying to cultivate a greater sense of gratitude in your life, you should seek out those whose dominant tendency is positive and upbuilding. It’s also a good idea to avoid spending too much time with those who like to dwell on the negative. Choosing your associates wisely can really help us to cultivate a much greater degree of gratitude and appreciation.

It can be very difficult to resist adopting a negative viewpoint when you are surrounded by it. To maintain a more grateful and appreciative perspective, we need to break away from the mentality of the masses and learn to think for ourselves. We need to make a conscious effort to filter the information we are exposed to. That means we need to find ways of limiting our exposure to negative input. We also need to be willing to take action to actively move away from sources that influence us in a negative way.

See the big picture. When you find yourself in a difficult situation, look for the beneficial aspects created by that situation. Ask yourself: “What have I learned here that will benefit me in the future? When I look back on this experience a year from now, what will I be grateful for?”  http://advancedlifeskills.com/blog/allow-gratitude-to-transform-your-life/

Finding something to be grateful for every day is life changing, even when that gratitude is for something that was difficult to endure. Over time my slant on being alive and my perspective of other people has shifted to be far more positive that it ever used to be. My chosen emphasis on gratitude has been life changing and brought a new way of seeing everything.

I truly believe we can either see the connections,
celebrate them, and express gratitude for our blessings,
or we can see life as a string of coincidences
that have no meaning or connection.
For me, I’m going to believe in miracles,
celebrate life, rejoice in the views of eternity
and hope my choices will create a positive ripple effect
in the lives of others. This is my choice.
Mike Erickwen

From Then Till Now

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It’s not uncommon to have gone through something filled with difficulty and pain, only to end up grateful for what it taught. And so it has been with me the last half-dozen years or so. I went from who I was to who I have become. Like a walk through hell, I do not wish to ever have to again face the sort of things I went through. However, I am grateful to have survived and be so much better for the experience.

Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about. Haruki Murakami

I have learned it’s not unusual to go through something filled with difficulty and pain, only to end up grateful for what it taught. And so it has been for me the last half-dozen years or so. From then to now I went from who I was to who I have become. That journey was like a walk through a blinding sandstorm that bruised, blinded and left me completely lost at times. I am grateful to have somehow muddled through the shifting sands and be better for it. I am thriving!

There are two questions a man must ask himself:
The first is ‘Where am I going?’
and the second is ‘Who will go with me?’
If you ever get these questions
in the wrong order you are in trouble.
Sam Keen

A Prevailing Attitude that Endures

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A decade’s worth of research on gratitude has shown me that when life is going well, gratitude allows us to celebrate and magnify the goodness. But what about when life goes badly?

My response is that not only will a grateful attitude help—it is essential. In fact, it is precisely under crisis conditions when we have the most to gain by a grateful perspective on life. In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope. In other words, gratitude can help us cope with hard times.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that gratitude will come easily or naturally in a crisis. It’s easy to feel grateful for the good things. No one “feels” grateful that he or she has lost a job or a home or good health or has taken a devastating hit on his or her retirement portfolio.

But it is vital to make a distinction between feeling grateful and being grateful. We don’t have total control over our emotions. We cannot easily will ourselves to feel grateful, less depressed, or happy. Feelings follow from the way we look at the world, thoughts we have about the way things are, the way things should be, and the distance between these two points.

But being grateful is a choice, a prevailing attitude that endures and is relatively immune to the gains and losses that flow in and out of our lives. When disaster strikes, gratitude provides a perspective from which we can view life in its entirety and not be overwhelmed by temporary circumstances. Yes, this perspective is hard to achieve—but my research says it is worth the effort. Trials and suffering can actually refine and deepen gratefulness if we allow them to show us not to take things for granted.

Why? Well, when times are good, people take prosperity for granted and begin to believe that they are invulnerable. In times of uncertainty, though, people realize how powerless they are to control their own destiny. If you begin to see that everything you have, everything you have counted on, may be taken away, it becomes much harder to take it for granted.

So crisis can make us more grateful—but research says gratitude also helps us cope with crisis. Consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude builds up a sort of psychological immune system that can cushion us when we fall. There is scientific evidence that grateful people are more resilient to stress, whether minor everyday hassles or major personal upheavals. The contrast between suffering and redemption serves as the basis for one of my tips for practicing gratitude: remember the bad.

It works this way: Think of the worst times in your life, your sorrows, your losses, your sadness—and then remember that here you are, able to remember them, that you made it through the worst times of your life, you got through the trauma, you got through the trial, you endured the temptation, you survived the bad relationship, you’re making your way out of the dark. Taken from an on-line article by Robert Emmons http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_can_help_you_through_hard_times

There is no power within me to fully explain the difference a focus on being grateful has had on me. To say gratitude has been life changing may sound exaggerated, but I assure you for me it is absolutely true.

Appreciating what I have
is my medicine.
Betty Jamie Chung

Fewer Words

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Fewer words often say far more than quantity, hence, three sincere thoughts this morning about the art of being grateful.

As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness — just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breathe it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm. Laura Ingalls Wilder

Embracing an attitude of gratitude is nourishing to the soul. When we allow ourselves to be engulfed in gratitude, this abundant soul nourishment overflows to your relationships, careers, and day-to-day lives. Act in gratitude today… If you are grateful to those you love, show them. If you are grateful to those who have helped you, show them. If you are grateful to your creator, to your family, to your friends, and you want it to be known, let it be shown! Steve Maraboli

Woke up today feeling appreciative of being alive and the comfort I live within. I spent time with a friend last night that made hours evaporate quickly. Special people add bright colors and flair to living. I am grateful for every caring soul that has been and is a part of my life.

The invariable mark of wisdom
is to see the miraculous in the common.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Even Longer…

Pooh-and-Piglet

If nobody smiled and nobody cheered and nobody helped us along,
If each every minute looked after himself and good things all went to the strong,
If nobody cared just a little for you, and nobody thought about me,
And we stood all alone to the battle of life, what a dreary old world it would be!

If there were no such a thing as a flag in the sky as a symbol of comradeship here,
If we lived as the animals live in the woods, with nothing held sacred or dear,
And selfishness ruled us from birth to the end, and never a neighbor had we,
And never we gave to another in need, what a dreary old world it would be!

Oh, if we were rich as the richest on earth and strong as the strongest that lives,
Yet never we knew the delight and the charm of the smile which the other man gives,
If kindness were never a part of ourselves, though we owned all the land we could see,
And friendship meant nothing at all to us here, what a dreary old world it would be!

Life is sweet just because of the friends we have made
and the things which in common we share;
We want to live on not because of ourselves, but because of the people who care;
It’s giving and doing for somebody else–on that all life’s splendor depends,
And the joy of this world, when you’ve summed it all up, is found in the making of friends.
“The Making Of Friends” by Edgar A. Guest

Yesterday morning I woke with a realization that brought almost instant regret. Several times through the previous day, I tried to make a mental note to call a dear friend who was about to have surgery. My intention was simple; to say I hope all goes as planned, to wish her well and say I care.

The dreadful feeling of my first thoughts of yesterday were akin to, “What if something should happen and I never get to see her again.” And there was some self-bashing going on like “How could I be so insensitive and forget to touch base with her.”

The good news is my friend came through the surgery just fine. She is suffering some with pain and discomfort, but should be just fine given time. I know she will tell me it’s okay that I had a mental slip and didn’t call. And she will mean it because she truly is my friend.

Once middle-age arrives one has been given repeated reminders to express feelings to someone while you can. All too often a person who was just fine today is gone tomorrow. The chance evaporates and regret becomes something carried forward.

When we honestly ask ourselves which people in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. Henri J.M. Mouwen

So P., my dear friend, I am sorry I did not talk to you before your surgery. I apologize and thank you for your understanding. Please know you have a special place in my heart and I am grateful that we stumbled into each other’s life and became friends.

“We’ll be Friends Forever,
won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet.
“Even longer”, Pooh answered.
From “Winnie-the-Pooh”
by A.A. Milne,

Make Some Difference

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Like most people there have been times when I have wondered why I am here and what difference my life makes. While dreams of doing something that could positively change the life of many people all at once are largely gone, I have instead become content to know here and there for one or two people at a time I have made a difference. Each occasion has meaning to a very few, but combined together the small gifts of myself amount to something fairly substantial.

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.” Loren Eiseley

No monuments will be created in my honor. No books will be written about my life. No movies will feature the path I have walked. To hoards of people I will always be nameless, faceless and unknown. But to a handful who took the time to truly know me I hope your existence is better for allowing me to be a part of your life.

My life is better for the people who have helped me learn, grow and heal. Though they be unknown to most, I am deeply grateful for those who cared enough to stop and help while others passed by hardly noticing me, if at all.

The purpose of life is not to be happy.
It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate,
to have it make some difference that you have lived
and lived well.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today is Your Day!

Dr Suess 2

” Life” by Susan Polis Schutz

dreams can come true
if you take the time to
think about what you want in life

get to know yourself
find out who you are
choose your goals carefully

be honest with yourself
always believe in yourself

find many interests and pursue them
find out what is important to you
find out what you are good at

don`t be afraid to make mistakes
work hard to achieve successes
when things are not going right
don`t give up – just try harder
give yourself freedom to try out new things
laugh and have a good time

open yourself up to love
take part in the beauty of nature
be appreciative of all that you have
help those less fortunate than you
work towards peace in the world

live life to the fullest
create your own dreams and
follow them until they are a reality

Grateful for life is how I woke up this morning. I am thankful for this day and especially that it’s Friday. The weekend will be filled with lots of time with people I care about. Being healthy, having a life rich in possibility, appreciation, loved ones, peace of mind and direction, I am indeed a very wealthy man.

Congratulations!
Today is your day!
You’re off to great places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
oh the places you will go
Dr. Seuss