Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving and Naikan

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for two completely different reasons. Firstly, I'm a big believer in expressing gratitude at every turn of my life. Secondly, the food in our family is amazing! :)

The thing that strikes me most about Thanksgiving is how it reminds me of the importance of living a grateful life. Perhaps you've heard me speak about my friend who works with convicts inside prison walls to help them prepare for life after prison. He has observed that within the walls of prisons, there is an overwhelming sense of entitlement: "I am owed. Society owes me. Someone else made me do the crime. It's not my fault." When he is able to convince the convicts to sincerely express gratitude for whatever they've been given, they start to turn their lives around. During the recent snow emergency in Seattle, it would be very easy (and understandable) to get angry about the weather, the traffic snarls, and the power outages. Most of us probably did get angry! An alternative approach would have been to pause and express gratitude for the things we've been given: a beautiful city in which to live, a train to use for transit instead of a bus, a home waiting for us at the end of our extended commute, family and friends who care about us, and grocery stores stocked with food. We could be living in a war-torn country, under an oppressive military dictatorship, or under the constant threat of disease or starvation. We could be homeless. It's truly a matter of perspective and, upon reflection, we're pretty well off!

Naikan is a Japanese practice of living a life of gratitude. In Naikan, you reflect on the things you've been given by others, the things you've given to others, and the troubles or difficulties you've caused others. The idea is that, in the presence of an abiding sense of gratitude, there's no opportunity for neurotic thought processes to develop. Think back to my friend's work with prisoners and how a change in attitude results in a change in a life. To paraphrase Zig Ziglar, when your thinkin' is stinkin', you need to make a change!
I'm thankful I'm still in business. Many of my competitors have closed their doors within the past couple of years. I'm thankful that you trust me with your email address. I'm thankful for my family and friends and I'm thankful to live on a beautiful planet called Earth.

Happy Thanksgiving!

1 comment:

HogTown said...

Gratitude and graciousness go hand in hand. The pastor of our church drove home the fact that those who accept the gift of grace through their faith in Christ are compelled to lead a gracious life. I only wish every believer lived that way...Also, the food at Thanksgiving. My nephew recently married into a family that, shall we say, does place an emphasis on the food during the family gathering. We received a phone call a couple hours after our Thanksgiving gathering. He and his new wife were on their way home after her family gathering. His question was, "Do you have any leftovers"? After the affirmative reply he asked if they could stop by and "have some real food". We all got a good chuckle out of that knowing that from now on there would be a good excuse for my nephew and his wife to make plans to be with us for Thanksgiving from now on. Best regards.