July 22, 2013 on 11:09 am
Dear Spiritual Explorer: I have been in a funk and looking for some inspiration. Can you suggest a book for me? Brian P., Asheville, NC
Attitudes of Gratitude
Dear Brian: We have so many spiritual books at Ma’s India full of how-to’s and tales of inspiring lives, but I have chosen for you Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day of Your Life. Admittedly, that last part of the title makes a big claim, but I figure it’s a way to be actually more proactive in your life in dispelling what you call your “funk.”
Attitudes of Gratitude by M.J. Ryan speaks of returning us to our natural birthright, which is joyfulness, by noticing what is right in our lives as opposed to what is wrong. We all know how easy it is to focus on the negative of our lives, and sometimes I think spiritual life is all about focus. What do I want to focus on today? Because of the problems in the world, it is so easy to surrender to a negative perspective.
But M.J. Ryan offers us an antidote. She says to be grateful, and I personally know that if I am on a “negative” tear, when I stop and see what in my life I can be grateful for, it stops my mind and relaxes my body. I am no longer uptight about what I think is occurring.
M.J.Ryan talks about “gimmees,” what we try to do to alleviate our suffering in the moment. It comes from our expectations and what we think will make us happy, such as rushing out to purchase something to alleviate the bad feelings. But if we were to look around and assume an attitude of gratitude, we would no longer feel that we have to ask for something; it is already there. “When we notice what is right instead of what’s wrong, it makes us feel complete, that we have everything we need, at least in this moment.’
Gratitude is not that difficult to cultivate. Interestingly, I know of many people who have had very serious illnesses and were “grateful” to them because it opened them up to a deeper way of life. Suddenly, they became grateful for what they saw in their lives; in many cases, they opened up to a love from others that they were not aware was available to them. They began to be grateful to survive another day to be with their loved one. I particularly know a man who told me that he had been an unkind person before he had cancer, and that because of the fragility he felt during his treatments, it opened him up to being grateful for the kindness he received from many sources, most unexpected in fact.
Our dear Oprah Winfrey through the last years has spoken a lot about gratitude and was always recommending that we do gratitude lists. I myself have periodically started a few and noticed how much better I felt in those moments.
M.J.Ryan has taken a simple attitude and expanded it with her many anecdotes and stories into a vast exploration of how to feel gratitude. Her book is a delight on every page, full of interesting and inspiring quotes and thoughts. She says, “When we fail to give thanks for what happens in our lives, we can get hung up in bitterness that prevents us from developing emotionally and spiritually. If we fail to grow, the light inside us grows dim.”
Inside this book are new ten gratitude practices from which she has taught and counseled people over the years. Enjoy!
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