An Attitude of Gratitude.
You’ve all heard it. Now let’s explore that statement.
If you’ve read a few of my blogs you may have noticed some type of pattern emerging. Well, I have noticed anyway. Practice this… practice that. Maintaining an attitude of gratitude takes practice. It is something we must develop.
I would say my attitude was pretty poor several years ago. Heck, it sometimes still is. Depending on the time of the month, my attitude might be poor for a whole day. Let’s face it, I’m human. As I’m sure you’ll recall at the start of my practice I supported it daily with the use of a meditation handbook. There was instruction to offer the first portion of whatever we eat or drink to the Three Jewels, remembering their kindness. We can do this with the following prayer:
I make this offering to you, Buddha Shakyamuni,
Whose mind is the synthesis of all Buddha Jewels,
Whose speech is the synthesis of all Dharma Jewels,
Whose body is the synthesis of all Sangha Jewels.
O Blessed One, please accept this and bless my mind.
OM AH HUM (3x)
Besides some family members giving occasional prayers before meals at family gatherings, I was not conditioned to pray or give thanks before eating. It was for me a new concept, something other people did. But I decided to give it a whirl. And of course I was terrible at it. I would eat a whole meal before realizing that I didn’t give thanks. After some reflection I realized that didn’t serve me, so I’d give thanks as soon as I realized I forgot, even if the meal was over. Several years later, I can’t accept a glass of water without giving thanks for it. The whole offering is done in my head and sometimes my children will question me, “Mom, what are you doing?” It must look to them as though I’m taking forever instead of just slamming the glass of water down.
We now give thanks as a family at (almost) every meal. I will admit that at first it was pretty awkward. In fact, I got some push back. But here is how I handled push back… I sang all by myself. We must practice and set a good example. Without it, it is very easy to fall back into a pattern of not caring. Here is what The Kuczer family sings:
Thank you for my meal,
Thank you for my meal,
Hi-ho, the derry-o,
Thank you for my meal!
(Sung to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell” – How suiting!)
So, pick one! What are you going to sing or say in your head or out loud before you eat? It sets the stage for mindful eating and a grateful attitude. Have you ever considered how the food got to your table in the first place? As farmers, my family has firsthand experience with the fact that food doesn’t grow in the supermarket.
In our sutra book there is a meal time reflection. It is a bit longer than the others I’ve shared with you and I don’t have it memorized yet. But when I pull out the pocket meal reflection card given to me by a friend or I’m on retreat and I’m following along with my peers, I get goosebumps every single time I read it. Sometimes my eyes prick with tears when I read this line: Let us reflect upon our work and the whole process and efforts of those who brought us this food.
Another great tool is to express our gratefulness at various times during the day. If someone does something for you and you feel grateful, tell them! If you aren’t “feeling” particularly grateful but it would be the appropriate response, say something! If you want to improve this quality, you must practice! At my family’s dinner table we have a (mostly) daily habit. We share out loud to the whole family what we are grateful for. Last night my son said he was grateful for Paw Patrol. Often my daughters say they are thankful for deer hunting. And I have teenage sons that often times just say “food”. My husband and I’ve been known to thank each other for support, support for today and especially for the last 18 years. I’m thankful that we’ve made a habit. Because hearing what the people in my life are thankful for, amplifies my own Attitude of Gratitude.
Yesterday I watched my six year old son walk through the barn with a meowing kitten in his arms. He was wearing a dirty pair of sweats, a pajama shirt, boots (without socks, I’m sure), chocolate stains on his face and behind him barking at the kitten was our family’s puppy. My heart was overflowing from the beauty of it all. It was imperfectly perfect. And my feelings were the spontaneous reaction to years of practice.
Author Howes suggests “If you concentrate on what you have, you’ll always have more.”
Please tell me about your attitude of gratitude.
And may your heart overflow with appreciation as well.
~On Ji, Becky Kuczer