The Power of Gratitude

I awoke this morning with a powerful sense of gratitude in my heart.  First, I had slept pretty well, my lovely wife was next to me as were my two dachshunds. I When I awoke this morning, I was intensely grateful for some reason for so many things. stirred and felt my hand on one of the lovely puppies. I got out of bed and paid attention this time to the simple pleasure of my mobility, knowing that as I age that will probably be more of an issue. I ambled into the kitchen, took pleasure in the fact that it was clean and organized, and made my coffee. Moments later I was grateful for the aroma and taste of this morning brew. I looked outside and could see the day breaking, noting the bird feeder where “bird theater” would be convening shortly. I turned on the television and found CNN where I could again watch the rest of the world, already spinning and weaving through the course of its day.

This gratitude is a new dimension of my life and has even been a discipline of sorts for the past couple of years. I read a book back then which noted the value of gratitude even for the simple things of life and I started to practice gratitude myself. I feel it has been a powerful influence in the spiritual direction of my life since then. By making this effort, I awakened a “gratitude muscle” in my heart which had long lain dormant and I have cultivated that muscle since then.

The New Testament teaches us to “Give thanks in all things.” Now, I do not think Paul had in mind compulsively “thanking God” each and every minute of our life, trying to earn “suck points” with a God who has nothing better to do that sit “up there” and offer “atta-boys” to those of us who follow His commands. I think he was suggesting that exercise this “gratitude muscle” from time to time in our life and discover that it can help us orient our life to the good that is present in this world, even in the midst of things that are often not so good. This discipline also has value as a cognitive behavioral therapy strategy as a deliberate focus on something positive when things are not going so well can be a powerful antidote to stress or even despair. And, it can be a powerful step in the direction of “getting over ourselves” from time to time, taking the focus away from our tendency to view the world through the narrow prism of our own self-interest and needs. I am currently reading a book by an evangelical Christian, Ann Voskamp, (One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are) in which she describes keeping a “gratitude journal” as a way of coping with difficulties in her day to day life.

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27 thoughts on “The Power of Gratitude

  1. Sandeep Bhalla

    I agree that you had similar thought. Once I landed in a book fare. That was nearly a decade ago and I bought a rather expensive book about meditation. A book running into 800 pages. But all I could gather meaningful was one thing: Human mind islike mirror, it reflects the comany it keeps. So it must be your company which affected my thought. I hope you lile it as you love quoting. so I quoted today.

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  2. Sandeep Bhalla

    And I say we are thoughts. Is it any different? You do invent new sources from from dead people to convince me and yourself that there is something beyond thought. Why do’nt you take a look yourself, under the bonnet? See what is in there.

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    1. literary lew Post author

      Dammit, that is just uncanny as hell! And I mean that in a very positive way. You ask very provocative questions, cutting right to the heart of things. Well, I’m trying to “get under that bonnet” but it is proving to be a challenge. When I agreed to “come out of that bonnet” and join this rational world, I agreed to never come back. And that world is telling me that I can’t go back on my word. Damn that world!

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    2. literary lew Post author

      Now, as Reagan once said, “There you go again”. You hit me again where I am vulnerable and you should know I hate that. Don’t ever say anything that challenges me, leave me alone in my little private, autistic shell. It is safe in here! Seriously though, I don’t know but what my lot in life is to rely on the wisdom of “dead people….and here I go again…W. H. Auden, speaking of W. B Yeats said, “The words of a dead man survive in the guts of the living”…and therefore perhaps I am merely allowing these profound words of dead men to live and thrive in my guts! They do live there and they do thrive and they do powerfully speak to my heart. Nevertheless, your suggestion that I take a look at myself “under the bonnet” is very astute for I know that I avoid that region of my heart. And, as indicated yesterday, I do feel there is a barricade keeping me from doing so and to breach that barrier is scary as hell. In fact, to do so will probably mean a brief descent into the very depths of hell. But I’m not for sure that is my calling. Or, to “speak Christian” for a moment, I don’t know that is what God has in store for me. God is working in my heart mightily right now and perhaps more will happen, perhaps that barricade will penetrate, perhaps not. I just don’t know. But at this point I trot out a Christian notion which is so powerful and that is what we call the simple “Grace of God.” This infinite Grace says we are fine as we are, even if we live in abject spiritual stupidity. To make that mistake, there is a price tag, however, as having exercised this choice we will not experience the unfolding of our hearts and lives that God had in mind. But God will not force us. He will not rape us. So, I”m “toiling on” in this pilgrimage and am now face-to-face with this barricade which you so astutely have brought attention to. Perhaps I will “break on through, break on through, break on through to the other side” (reference to a Jim Morrison song) or perhaps this is not in the cards. But regardless, God’s grace is profound and my goal in life presently is to affirm this marvelous grace in my life, not in the ostentatious manner that I was once taught to do, but in the simple living of my life and fulfilling the simple mundane responsibilities of my life.

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      1. Sandeep Bhalla

        Have you ever considered taking uo preaching or starting a new religion or church. How will sound ‘An order of St. Lewis’ who lived a simple life but did great service to sufferring souls.
        You started from one end and finished at other extreme end within few lines. Just the preachers do.
        We can have a branch here also.

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      2. literary lew Post author

        You are just so mean! You know how to hit below the belt where I am most vulnerable! And I love it! I have friends who tease me about “starting to preach again” and I also tease about the same and will often break into a “hell-fire and damnation” spiel in a social moment. You see, I can be quite a comedian and this “preacher” stuff is really good fodder.

        I like the notion of an “Order of St. Lewis”, btw. I can envision a tv show selling dvds, holy water, prayer clothes, and such. And, yes I would like an Indian branch over there with you in charge. Now, of course there would be no pay for you, because you would need to provide this service merely in the interest of laying up alms in heaven. I would insist it be done this way only for your sake as I know you need to accumulate a few more alms for when you get up there.

        Hey, this is so much fun. Thanks for playing with me! But, at the same time, we are talking about really serious stuff. And “getting out from under this bonnet” is really a powerful notion for me.

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      3. Sandeep Bhalla

        It was so much fun reading the flight of imagination and being so important head of church. Uh… now back to bonnet. Unless you inspect and fully understand what is inside bonnet, it will keep calling you.
        Don’t you have to go to fetch ‘souls for Jesus’?

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      4. literary lew Post author

        Seriously, not in the least. The best way to “win souls to Jesus” is to seek to win your own to him, to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (the Apostle Paul) and any soul winning needed will take place. A focus on “winning souls to Jesus” is usually merely displacement, the real soul needing to be one being one’s own.

        Gotta check out for now. Hope you have a good evening and a good weekend. I’m gonna check out your photo web site again and hope you have new stuff there. I really love looking at your world in that venue. I will try to show you some of my world at some point.

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      5. literary lew Post author

        Well, actually today I am not working, so those souls are going to have to languish. Btw, I’m trying to help Claire set up an Etsy web account on which she can display her crochet wares and maybe even sell something every now and then. That will be my main occupation today.

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      6. literary lew Post author

        Yes, but to “inspect and fully understand” what is inside there, you have to get there, you have to get beyond that damn flaming cheribim and serephim that God created to keep us from getting back inside. And everytime I get close, I get my halo singed.

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      7. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

        In the words of guru Sandeep — “Lose self find god. Find self, strengthen it and only talk God.”

        Sounds just like something a preacher would say as well. Maybe you two should go into business together. I’ll come visit. Heck, I might even provide special music. You two can try and gang save me. Might have to drug me first though. lol

        *Leaves Chocolate Easter Bunny*

        😀

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      8. literary lew Post author

        Reference to deterrence by seraphim and cherubim means I think that there is a limit to where thought can take us, though our heart does not always respect that limit. We long to go back to a place where we can never reach with human cogitation and even with intense longing. That is why “chopping wood and carrying water” is such a common refrain of mine. I feel it is so important for me to “turn off” my mind’s fitful and frenzied machinations occasionally and just focus on mundane responsibilities in this world and in offering “random acts of kindness” here and there.

        But, please keep on keeping my feet close to the fire. You do challenge me. You challenge the basic assumptions, the premises, and that is where we need to be challenged.

        Btw, in spite of your education and erudition, I know I probably use terms and colloquial expressions from time to time that don’t make any sense to you. Please tell me and I’ll explain. I realize that you are so gracious to meet me on “my terms” (meaning the English language) as otherwise we would not be able to communicate at all. That versatility with language is so incredibly important.

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  3. InnerDialect

    Okay you guys, enuff :))))))))))))))))) but what a mighty profession Gratitude is. OUr wars, our thoughts,our words become us, we wear them, we bear, bare them, a tribute to existence, or otherwise. Today I found strength in being thank ful for the little things, the sunshine and laughter, the ways of the people around that give so much love, family, neighbours…. and then you know, its not ; LIttle” … deep happy sigh.

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  4. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

    Lewis, this post is exquisite. Gratitude rocks. Btw, our thoughts are not always our own, which is why it’s important to not take them so seriously or become too self-reflective about them. Otherwise one can create unnecessary neural pathways to the fear and anxiety regions of the brain, the right amygdala. Such reflection has been shown to cause stress and atrophy our hippocampus. It’s also important to be aware that we are human antennas capable of ‘tuning in’ to outside frequencies. As Dr. Neil Cherry pointed out, there exists no definite border between the electromagnetic fields that are maintained by the body’s metabolism and those that exist in the environment. For example, the Earth’s magnetic field is always fluxing. This effects our thoughts.

    You’ve heard of ‘gut instinct’ before. Well, the neurons in our brain and gut use oscillating ion currents. They use frequency encoders and decoders and phase-locked loop circuits just like electronics, to tune into external signals of a slightly different frequency. This tuning in can and does influence thought life. We can default to frequencies coming from beneath our feet, the Earth, or from the geomagnetic field above, etc. This can effect our emotions, thus our thoughts. It’s called a frequency following response. Brainwave entrainment. Happens to us often.

    I appreciate what Eckhart Tolle once said — the best way to deal with unwanted thoughts is to recognize them.but not reinforce them. If you’re feeling down and/or depressed, rather than saying or thinking “I’m depressed, this sucks”, say “I’m depressed, it’s a chemical reaction in my brain that will change in time. I’m OK with it.”

    I am grateful for neuroscience because it gave me a better understanding about thoughts. I am also grateful for being alive in this day and time, and to have crossed paths with you, Sandeep and Rayla (InnerDialect). Feelin’ the connection. 🙂

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    1. literary lew Post author

      I certainly agree that they should not be taken too seriously and yes, self reflection, with which I am cursed can become problematic. Anything, carried to an extreme, becomes its opposite.

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    2. InnerDialect

      Oh yes, like a great big lil world and really not much of a mess when we’re happy cyber-somersaulting, if that makes sense. Should everything make sense ? Nah. ..I think happily, and thats a relief. Thank you for a great post as always Literary Lew&Co

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  5. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

    Oh, I’m feeling like Sandeep today, very chatty. LOL – I just wanted to explain that most of my comments had more to do with the conversation in the comment section than your post. I was just adding my 2 cents. Thanks for indulging me. ;D

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  6. jeglatter

    🙂 Whatever I wake up with (before my eyes even open) is what seems to be lying strongest in me. So beautiful thinking of waking up with Gratitude! Great post.:)
    -Jennifer

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