On my Facebook news feed a couple of months ago, I started seeing posts in which people I knew were expressing their gratitude in lists of several points per day. Later, I discovered that each of them had been “challenged” by someone else to do so. This was a ball that was being passed on, but it hadn’t yet gotten to me.
Then, it did. Up until that time, I felt like I was like a kid in class trying to look inconspicuous, so as not to be called on by the teacher. Of course, I’m in favour of gratitude. I have reason to be grateful that I’m even alive. Yet, I felt a bit uneasy about the idea of itemizing so many things I’m thankful for—three a day for five days. I’m not someone who always feels his gratitude. Angels and devils (of discouragement, mostly) are still fighting it out in my heart. I have moments of bliss, periods of peace… and times when I feel I’m carrying a burden.
Given that, would it be hypocritical for me to list reasons I’m grateful?
At first, this question was theoretical—and then one day last week, it wasn’t. Checking my emails, I found that a Facebook friend had invited me to do the Gratitude Challenge.
There wasn’t much question whether I would accept. I felt that a person who proclaimed himself a spiritual seeker and devotee as much as I do really would be lame if he couldn’t find honest reasons for being grateful, when asked. So, I wrote to my friend that I would accept the challenge, and opened my notebook and started digging. I wanted my words to actually be sincere, not just to sound sincere.
I found it fascinating and empowering to bare myself to myself, in more than a superficial way, to discover and put into words some of the main things I’m genuinely thankful for. I also felt good inviting three people per day to join me, which made up the other part of the challenge. This was a bit of a surprise, as I generally feel uneasy passing on chain letters and such. Finding my own process of discovery to be enriching, however, I felt enthused to proactively call for my friends to join me. Some took me up on the offer, and some did not. A few wrote a single paragraph. Their response to my invitation was none of my business.
Without reservation, though, I recommend the Gratitude Challenge, and I intend to engage in this process of exploration anew, every so often.
Here is my by-no-means-exhaustive list of the things I’m grateful for:
» I’m grateful for the green of trees and the blue of sky that are so present, so calming, and so inspiring in my world.
» I’m grateful for the compassion I feel during my daily weekday schedule, with mornings often free for me to determine what I work on or play at, along with very demanding (yet often very rewarding) six-and-a-half hour afternoons as a preschool teacher.
» I’m grateful for our home (the one Barbara and I share that is such a refuge to return to each night).
» I’m very, very grateful for song,
» and the same for laughter!
» I’m grateful for Barbara’s companionship and presence.
» I’m grateful for my physical health. I feel especially grateful that my, well, “elimination” functions in a top-notch way—I feel so healthy then!
» I’m grateful that I’ve been shown that God alone is real.
» I’m grateful that God is Compassion and that I’ve been restored to Love and the Eternal Present so many times, in so many ways, when I’ve happened to become lost.
» I’m grateful for possibility, for reconciliation, and for spring after winter, especially within the heart.
» I’m grateful for the photos of Meher Baba that I can sit before in “meditation,” which is a euphemism for “dying into those endless eyes, as much as I’m able… .”
» I’m grateful for variety… for example, the different “tastes of God” in Indian food, American food, Persian food, Japanese food, etc. … and similarly, variety in every other sphere of life… with each of us, ourselves, being a “flavour of God.”
» I’m grateful that my parents, Irwin and Corinne Reif, did not abandon me in my 20s and 30s when I had severe emotional problems, but did their best to accept me. We all were stretched by these trying times. I’m also grateful for their thoughtfulness when it came to their financial legacy. In a lifetime during which I haven’t thus far been a big money earner, their care continues to help Barbara and me make ends meet, every month, even after they’ve passed on.
» I’m extremely grateful for the people God has sent to help, guide, befriend and mentor me over the years, including Edward and Irwin Luck, Ram Dass, Lyn Ott and Jal S. Irani in particular. There were also Michael Atkinson, my loving college professor, and many others (Kitty Davy, Jane Haynes, Meher Baba’s Indian mandali, and still others). I think the poet Francis Brabazon was also a positive influence, although I’ve never met him in the flesh. “It takes a village” … and I’ve had one!
» I’m grateful for the gift, if that is what it is, to “go within” in a notebook, or, earlier in life, on a canvas/easel or guitar, and create—the great Tolkien called artistic work “sub-creation,” meaning creation within the handiwork of the One Creator, God—and come out (maybe not always, but a significant, life-saving proportion of the time) with something living, an artistic expression that shares the Life Force in a form as such that another can enter the work and vicariously experience the same beauty, pathos and release.