Musings

Gratitude and Complaint

The theme of gratitude has been popping up a lot for me lately. I want to be more grateful for the constant stream of blessing flowing toward me, whether I recognize them or not. For example, I am alive. Whatever else is going on, this is true. It is also true that my ancestors survived a tremendous amount to make way for me now, something that is true for all of us at some point. Gratitude for that alone could take up all of my time, for example. I’ve been thinking about gratitude because I believe it’s impossible to be grateful enough. No matter our circumstances, there is always something to be grateful for.

Complaint has the power to take us away from our own hearts by making us forgetful and prideful.  Sometimes we get so caught up in our complaints, we stop noticing all that we have to be grateful for. Considering gratitude necessitates thinking about my relationship to complaint. There is a saying in Islam that it is best to complain only to God. I most definitely fail at this. I mention to this person and that how tired I am, how frustrated I am by this or that, how cold it is, etc. I intend to maintain an attitude of gratitude in most conversations but somehow those complaints manage to sneak in sometimes. I wonder what it would take consistently focus on my gratitude in my speech? I like to think I mostly do so, but I know there is much more wonder to remember and for which to give thanks. Many Muslims say simply “Alhamdulillah”—all praise to God. In Nigeria many people respond to “how are you?” with “God is good.” What would I have to let go of to say just that without adding “I’m a bit tired…” at the end of it, or some similar complaint? Sometimes I do get confused about the potential difference between complaint and saying a true thing.

About 14 years ago I visited my friend Felicia in California. As she prepared for bed, she took out two bowls, one full of 100 marbles.

What are you doing? I asked

I’m doing my gratitudes. This is my gratitude bowl. Every night, for each marble, I say one thing I’m grateful for, and move it to the empty bowl.

Years later I am still amazed that she did 100 a day! I did it with her while I was there and as we got into the 70s and 80s it became a bit more challenging, and that was the most beautiful part of the experience for me. After giving thanks for the things that came relatively easy—family, friends, health, etc., when I thought I’d pretty much covered everything, how much more to give thanks for in all of creation! Considered on that scale 100 is a paltry offering!   

Not only is gratitude a must for your spirit, it also has an amazing impact on your health. Consistently, consciously giving thanks daily can dramatically reduce stress, improve your outlook and more.*

I am laughing at myself as I write this, noticing the part of myself that doesn’t want you to get the wrong impression, the part of me that wants to assure you that indeed I am very grateful, the part that wants you to think well of me. This is what Landmark calls the “Sea of Opinions—wanting to look good and wanting to avoid looking bad.” That’s a big topic, which we’ll save for another day. I invite you to notice what is coming up for you as you think about increasing your gratitude.

 

11 things I’m grateful for today, right now this instant

  • I am alive!
  • I am healthy
  • My beloved
  • My heart
  • Dhikr
  • I was able to get a bike
  • I rode my bike safely home after not having been on a bike in 10 years!
  • Some lovely conversations
  • Learning about Renaissance Souls (wow, very powerful for me!)
  • A warm home
  • You, dear reader

 

 

 

Questions for your consideration:

  • What are you grateful for today? In your life at large? In all the world?
  • What would it take for you to increase your gratitude and lessen your complaints?

 

*A couple of short articles on the health benefits of gratitude:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/22/gratitude-healthy-benefits_n_2147182.html#slide=1770433

 

http://www.cfidsselfhelp.org/library/counting-your-blessings-how-gratitude-improves-your-health