As we come close to the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, along with spectacular autumn weather I am overwhelming grateful. The scale is so heavily weighted in my favour. Yes, there are a myriad of problems not to be denied. Not really sure where the notion came from that life was easy sailing. Yet, no matter how difficult life can be, when I sit down and count my blessings, so to speak, they are staggeringly in my favour.
If you ever want to do a reality check, based on your own standards, turn your attention to what is going right and all the ways you have been helped in your lifetime. Or this year or the past 24 hours. Take a blank sheet of paper and a pencil and make a laundry list of specific ways you have been helped, for a fixed period of time: day, week, this year…It may take a bit to get started because we take lots for granted.
Troubles demand our attention because they require us to do something. Things that are going well or ways that we are helped can easily slip through the cracks or fade into the woodwork. Not that we are unappreciative but we can easily miss the ordinary.
That Wide-angle Lens
I am thinking of my bed now. If you have been in a hospital you notice your bed because you realize how comfortable it is and you miss it. If the power goes out or the hot water heater breaks down we notice how great a shower feels because we are now deprived. I think about my computer and how it helps me to do my work, write this blog, meet up with friends on line, pay my bills…order a book or put one on hold at the library. Many known and unknown people are responsible for me having a computer on my desk. And if the internet stops working for a day…Yikes! Who gave us our first job or taught us to read? Or who saved our life with surgery, medicine or some other life giving opportunity?
One walk around the block this morning was filled with beautiful colour. And the people who smiled and said hello also brightened my day. I’m not speaking of rose coloured glasses, rather that wide angle lens. A way to capture the whole scene and not just what needs fixing, solving or learning to live with. Bringing some balance to the mistaken view that if you do everything right nothing will go wrong.
Life is More Like the 84th Problem
There’s a story about a farmer who came to see a sage, and to tell him about his numerous life difficulties. He told the sage about his troubles with his farming – either drought or monsoons made his work always difficult. He told the sage about his wife, for even though he loved her, there were certain things about her which could use some fixing. Likewise with his children – yes, he loved them, but they certainly weren’t turning out quite the way he wanted.
So, he told the sage all of this, and when he was done, he asked the sage how he could help him with his troubles.
And the sage said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.”
“What do you mean? You’re supposed to be a great teacher!” railed the farmer.
To which the sage replied, “It’s like this: all human beings have 83 problems; it’s a fact of life.”
Sure, a few more problems may go away now and then, but soon enough a few more will come. So, we’ll always have 83 problems.”
To which the farmer indignantly responded, “Then what’s the good of all your teaching?”
To which the sage replied, “My teaching can’t help with the 83 problems, but perhaps it can help with the 84th problem.”
“What is the 84th problem?” asked the farmer.
“The 84th problem is that we don’t want to have any problems.
Each year at Thanksgiving dinner we have a practice where each of us speaks about what we are grateful for. In the last ten years or so we added a small metal tree (some years it was paper) and a stack of handmade paper leaves where we each write out what we are thankful for and attach our leaf to the tree. Before dinner we each read what we wrote. It is a special ritual that our family and friends look forward to.
If we want to decrease suffering, gratitude is pretty much a fool proof method of doing so.
My friend Patricia recently sent me this quote from one of her artist friends, and I think it is perfect for just this occasion:
“I want to spend the rest of my life rejoicing in the beauty of this world and finding a million ways to say thank you.” by Anne Schrievogel
Note 1:) A special thank you to Dr. Jinroh Itami, thanks to whom I have something to offer and to live by. Always to Wellspring Calgary, The ToDo Institute, and all the wonderful people I am so honoured and grateful to spend time with through this work.
Note: 2) I am teaching an annual month long program starting next week for the ToDo Institute in Vermont. It is not demanding; hopefully useful and encouraging; a guided self directed method with a weekly themed live webinar for four weeks. You can find more information here. Don’t hesitate to write to me if you have any questions. No obligation – just for your information.
Note: 3) Finally, I wish all of my Canadian readers a very special Thanksgiving weekend. It is my most favourite holiday and gives us a chance to formally count our blessings. You, dear readers, keep me company as we navigate this tender, wondrous and oftentimes difficult life. Your encouraging words are heartfelt and appreciated. Please accept mine, as we cheer each other along. A deep bow. Warmly, Trudy
PS A little extra from the well-loved Brother David Steindl-Rast A Grateful Day