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Radical Gratitude

March 22, 2010

A married couple seeing me for counseling a while back asked me, “What do we do when, after things have been going great, we have a fight and suddenly everything looks bad again? How do we get back to the good feeling?”

I answered by telling them about my wife Shelley. A golden-aura’d soul who’s given me so much love and delight (and joy!) for almost 10 years now, Shelley once handed me a little stone, and said, “This is a Gratitude Rock. Every day, hold it and think of all the things you’re grateful for”. So I do. Every morning, after sitting up in bed and revving up the mental gears with thoughts of all I have to do that day, I stand up and reach for the rock. I hold it only for about 5- 10 seconds or so.  And my perspective is gently jolted from all-I-gotta-do, to look-at-all-I-got

Then I’m more awake.

I said to this couple, “Look at all you have to be grateful for! The two of you are alive; you have your health! You have each other. A beautiful child who’s also healthy! A roof over your head. Clothes to wear and plenty of food to eat. You happen to be living in the most blessed nation the world has ever known, at a remarkable time in history. Why, compared with the other 8 billion other souls on the planet, you’re sitting on top of the world!

“So next to all this, exactly how important was that thing you were arguing about?” 

The following session they came in reporting how useful this had been for them that week.

Try it yourself. This spring, go to your park or garden and pick out a stone. (Or better — one for you, and one for a friend). And place your Gratitude Rock where you can see it when you get out of bed in the morning. Pick it up, and remember your blessings.

I call this Radical Gratitude.

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines “radical” as: “…Designed to remove the root of a disease… Marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional.”

So what makes this kind of gratitude radical is: It can grab you down at the root of your joylessness and pull you up out of it. You depart from “the usual or traditional” way of being, which is based on getting or fearing. (Notice our language: Depressed, angry and scared are things we get – as in, “I got depressed”;  “You’re getting me angry”; “I’m getting scared” etc. Thanks is something you give.)  The result is your perception can suddently shift from the problems you have to the blessings you have.

Gratitude is radical when you place it up front: you give thanks first and often. When I pray, I turn my prayers into a series of “Thank you’s!” As in, “Thank you for this day! Thank you for my life! Thank you for my health! Thank you for my sleep! Thank you for my friends and my family! My home and my neighborhood and my nation! And for all the opportunities to be of service to people!” 

You feel joy when you give it, so each day the first thing you can give is: Thanks.


Today’s Joygasm:

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. David permalink
    March 22, 2010 1:36 pm

    Great words, Charley. I see the benefits giving generously of myself without expectation of receiving. There is something radical about it.

    I recently saw Babette’s Feast, a remarkable Danish film from 1987. A character makes this statement in a toast:

    “Man, in his weakness and shortsightedness believes he must make choices in this life. He trembles at the risks he takes. We do know fear.
    But no. Our choice is of no importance. There comes a time when our eyes are opened and we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude. Mercy imposes no conditions.
    And lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us. And everything we rejected has also been granted. Yes, we even get back what we rejected.”

  2. March 24, 2010 4:48 am

    This looks like an interesting film!

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