From sunrise to sunset, there are images everywhere we look of what we are missing in life, what we don’t have and what we should: a better car, the latest technology, a fancy house, and vacations to brag about.
How if we work that much harder, sacrifice more often at the expense of our health, our relationships and families, we can have it all. At the same time, we are living in a period of fear and uncertainty where the #MeToo
movement and strong, powerful voices of survivors still aren’t enough for cases to be properly investigated, where children are being separated from parents, and privilege, oppression, and police brutality is everywhere we look. How do we find light during these dark times? One way is by practicing being grateful but not grateful by comparison.
Rev. Robin Landerman Zucker wrote, “Given the savagely competitive society we’ve created and in which we live, many of us are lured, quite seductively, into the attitude of gratitude by comparison. We imagine life
could be better or that we are entitled to have more than we do.”
Last month while at Iliff, my car broke down. Then on the way home, it broke down again and I was stranded in Nebraska for three days away from my husband and children. I was stuck in a motel with my dog and nowhere to go. My response to this was gratitude by comparison- “I am thankful because it could be worse. I am thankful because at least I am in this motel and there are people that don’t have a place to sleep tonight.”
While it is good to recognize the privilege of having a roof over my head
while I sleep and having a car to fix in the first place, it would have been healthier for my spirit to put away the contrasts and my focus on the universe’s test on my stress level. A healthier practice would be to remove the negative aspects of the gratitude and just focus on many other things I had to be grateful for at the time such as how I just finished up a wonderful and invigorating week of seminary classes, how I received many loving hugs and beautiful smiles from my cohort members, and how I enjoyed meeting new 1st year students who were full of questions.
Greg Krech, A Zen Buddhist teacher, asks us to purse a gratitude practice in three parts: Notice, Reflect, and Express. “To experience a sense of heartfelt gratitude, you must develop a practice. Without practice, there is no development of skill – only an idea. You cannot become a grateful person just by thinking that you want to be grateful. Rather, you need to develop a new habit of attention – to notice the concrete ways in which the world supports you each day. And we can then develop a new habit of speech – expressing our gratitude to others.” What are you grateful for this month?