“Gratitude is an opener of locked-up blessings.” – Marianne Williamson
I just love Thanksgiving. It is a holiday focused on gratitude. It is a day to appreciate the blessings in life and take notice of the abundance that surrounds us. There is so much that we take for granted. What would life be like if we lived everyday as a ‘Thanksgiving Day?’ I once heard Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, discuss the importance of gratitude. He said to imagine the worst toothache pain you ever had. Feel how uncomfortable it was and remember the intensity of the pain. Now give thanks, there is no toothache today. How easily we forget to be grateful for not having toothache pain once it is gone. There is so much wisdom in his words.
In day to day life we get caught up in the drama, the rushing around, the responsibilities and the busyness that it is easy to forget to be grateful. We forget that in this moment, we do have enough. We are alive, so there is enough air to breath, food to digest and energy in our bodies. Are we grateful for the bed that we slept in, the heat in the house or the food in the refrigerator? Most of these things we take for granted until they aren’t there. We take for granted that the lights will turn on when we flick the switch, but it is only when there is a power outage that we remember how grateful we are for the convenience of electricity.
Is it only when we are faced with an illness that we are grateful for our bodies? When was the last time you were grateful to your heart for beating or your red blood cells for carrying oxygen? What an amazing miracle our bodies are! Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” When we look at the world as though everything is a miracle, there is gratitude in everything. Thanksgiving does not need to be a once a year holiday. It can be lived daily. Thich Nhat Hanh sums up beautifully what living in gratitude can be, “Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”
“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” --Roy E. Disney
There are times in our lives when things seem to be going smooth and the journey is uneventful. Other times the ride is rough. What is the difference between these times? While we can’t control much of what happens in life, we can choose how we respond to life events. We can choose to either be in alignment with our core values and who we say we are, or we can be out of alignment. If we say that we are compassionate and caring, yet yell and curse at the person who cut us off in traffic, we are not in alignment with our values. I think of our values as the lines on the road of life. If we stay within the lines, for the most part the ride is smooth. If we start to drift off, it gets pretty bumpy. If we continue to ignore the bumps, it isn’t long before we start crashing into things. The longer we live out of our values, the rougher the ride is.
In order for us to be able to detect when we are off the road of life, we first need to get clear on where the road is. This comes from identifying our core values. What are the values that are most important to me? I give many of my clients a homework assignment to come up with a list of at least ten core values that they hold. We then go through the list, one by one, and rate them on a scale from 1-10 to indicate how often they live the values they say they hold. It is interesting to begin to self-reflect and recognize how often we are off the road of our values and how difficult it is sometimes to stay on the road. We all have an internal guidance system which warns us when we are beginning to drift off the road. There is a feeling of being off or what I like to call the ‘yuck feeling’ when we are drifting. It is easy for our minds to ignore that feeling and continue on. Our minds are great at justifying why it is better to tell a little lie then to follow our value of honesty, but that is when we are drifting off the road. Becoming aware of our values and then listening for that internal guidance system to warn us that we are drifting, can get us back on the road of life. How would living in your values and staying on the road of life change you?