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I once traveled with a friend who had great insight into human nature. He said,“Wherever you go you can find something to complain about.” If we travel, we can complain about lumpy beds and crowded airports. But if we stay home, we can complain that we never go anywhere interesting and there’s never anything good on television.
In Japanese language there is a term -- on. The meaning of on often includes a sense of gratitude combined with a desire to repay others for what we have been given. It’s not just that we feel grateful, or that we express our gratitude, but that we actually experience a sincere desire to give something back. We might think of it as appreciation that stimulates a sense of obligation. Not an externally imposed obligation. But a sense of obligation that arises naturally within us as we recognize how we have been supported and cared for by others.
Seven Principles for Cultivating Gratitude:
- Gratitude is independent of our objective life circumstances
- Gratitude is a function of attention
- Entitlement precludes gratitude
- We often take for granted that which we receive on a regular basis
- Gratitude can be cultivated through sincere self-reflection
- Expressing gratitude, through words and deeds, enhances our experience of gratitude
- Our deepest sense of gratitude comes through grace, with the awareness that we have not earned, nor do we deserve all that we've been given.
This is a book to be read and an art to be lived. -- Rabbi Rami Shapiro
A very well-written and excellent summary of this simple and beautiful practice. -- Amazon reviewer
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Gregg Krech discusses cultivating gratitude in relationships in the following audio segment. (This presentation was made to the One World Library Project.)
What our Members Are Saying:
Thank you so much for this article about complaining and gratitude. Since I read about not complaining in the Thirty Thousand Days article a couple of months ago, I have been practicing not complaining. It took me about three weeks before I had a day with no complaints! The reason I started was because I thought, "Oh, this is going to be easy; I hardly ever complain." I found out differently. Then I discovered that by evening I almost everyday forgot what I had complained about that day, so I decided to keep a journal about it, nothing very long or drawn out, just a little something to keep me focused. Later I wrote one day that I was grateful I hadn't complained that day. Now I always add something I am grateful for. And just the other day when I did something really stupid because I was being impatient I was forced to look at my impatience. Now I'm keeping track of that aspect of myself as well, and am writing about it. I find that impatience goes hand in hand with complaining, and I realize that I have the opportunity to be patient with the rest of my entire life; every moment has something of interest if only I will slow down and see it, and stop being the big director of the show. I really don't have to work so hard making everything go my way. What a thought!
Many grateful thanks to you all there at the ToDo Institute.
Not Complaining -
by BROTHER DAVID STEINDL-RAST
"Later I asked myself, what is it that upset me? And the answer is change. And this is where all of this gets connected with gratitude. You see, I don’t want change. The little me doesn’t want change; it’s very allergic to change. You see how this is connected with complaining? It’s the little me against the rest of the world. And the little me sees itself as entitled to something. The world owes me something. But really what on earth does the world owe you when it comes down to it? Absolutely nothing."
Expressing Gratitude is Transformative
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."
-Roshi John Daido Loori
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