Just for Today, Express Gratitude

Just for Today, Express Gratitude

by Susan Downing

This is the third of Mikao Usui’s Reiki precepts.  It’s often been translated as “Just for today, be humble,” but the original Japanese wording contains a set phrase that means “express gratitude.”  Certainly, gratitude is connected to humility.  If we express gratitude for whatever we encounter in our lives, then humility also comes into play: being humble can mean admitting that maybe we do not know everything or understand everything in life well enough to be able to judge which circumstances might help or hinder us.  Acknowledging this opens the door to feeling grateful for all in our lives.

Sometimes this comes easily.  For example, every day, I express my gratitude for the fact that I am able to do my Buddhist and Reiki practice.  Buddhist teachings refer to this as leisure and opportunity, which struck me as very amusing at first – it conjured up visions of lying on a beach, which I have never been one to do.  But really, the phrase has to do with having the free time in which to practice and the chance to encounter the dharma.  So, I do give thanks every day that I have the resources and opportunity to learn from gifted teachers, the time to pursue my practice, and the chance to share my work with others.  Since these practices form the core of my life, and since I clearly see the benefit that they bring me, and which they enable me to bring to others, it’s natural for me to feel infinite gratitude for them.

I’m sure each of us has at least one circumstance or person or occurrence in our lives for which we feel this kind of gratitude.   But I think we can easily fall into the trap of focusing not on what in our lives elicit gratitude, but on what leaves us feeling dissatisfied. We might find that we devote a lot of energy to thinking about what we want, but don’t have, whether it’s a new car, a bigger house, a higher-paying or more enjoyable job, or more time with those we love, or a spiritual practice that will rid us of unhappiness.  Or about what we don’t want, but do have to put up with: higher taxes, annoying coworkers, chores to do on the weekend, being apart from those we love. When we’re in this dissatisfied frame of mind, we’re too busy worrying about why happiness hasn’t come into our lives to concentrate on engaging in the kind of purposeful practice or endeavor that can actually allow joy to arise in our lives.

One way we can break that cycle is to shift our focus and express our gratitude for all that is right in our lives. With hurricane Irene bearing down on so many of us on the east coast this weekend, it seems a particularly good time to spend some time making a list of blessings.  Here are some of the things on my list at the moment:  I’m grateful for the precious moments I am spending with my daughter in this last week before she heads off to college; for the fact that the Marines in Quantico are good at emergency preparedness, so that I don’t have to worry about my son’s safety during the hurricane; for the mysterious low-lying fog on the field in the morning; for the love I feel for my friends, students and teachers and that I feel from them, too; for blueberries; for the warmth my hands feel from a beautiful teacup; for the group of laughing children who came to play at the labyrinth where my friend Karen and I had just done a ceremony in memory of our mothers, who both died three years ago this week; and for the red-tailed hawk that darted past me on Mount Tom the other day and inspired me with his brilliant plumage and bold pursuit of his purpose.

May you have the leisure and opportunity to make up a list of your own in these next few days.

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