I once traveled with a friend who had great insight into human nature. He said, “Wherever you go you can find something to complain about.” If we travel, we can complain about lumpy beds and crowded airports. But if we stay home, we can complain that we never go anywhere interesting and there’s never anything good on television. In Japanese language there is a term -- on. The meaning of on often includes a sense of gratitude combined with a desire to repay others for what we have been given. It’s not just that we feel grateful, or that we express our gratitude, but that we actually experience a sincere desire to give something back. We might think of it as appreciation that stimulates a sense of obligation. Not an externally imposed obligation. But a sense of obligation that arises naturally within us as we recognize how we have been supported and cared for by others.
So how do we go from a complaining lifeto one which cultivates, and is grounded in, a spirit of on – a spirit of Thanksgiving? A method of Japanese psychology called Naikan gives us insight into the principles help create an authentic life of gratitude and offer us clear and straightforward methods for helping to wake us up to the care, support and gifts that make our own lives possible.
Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work
The practice of Naikan is transformative. It is deeply personal. Naikan shines a light on your life that will soften your heart and open your mind, revealing truths that have been hidden from your view and leading you toward a richer, more joyful and more fulfilling life. This collection of essays, parables and stories will provide a rich introduction to Naikan and enable you to begin experiencing the benefits of this self-reflection practice on your own.
I hope to buy copies of this book for Christmas this year to give to all of the people I love. I read this book and applied its principles to my life and especially my relationship with my husband. It is transformative! By using the techniques discussed in this book, which are really very simple to use, you gain a truer, fuller picture of what is happening in any relationship in which you are involved. It has helped me to truly appreciate my husband, something that hasn't happened in a very long time. Of course, he feels that appreciation and the result has been a wonderful transformation of our relationship. I recommend this book for everyone as I can't imagine anyone for whom it would not be life changing in some degree. --From an Amazon review
Louie Schwartzberg - Gratitude
What our Members Are Saying:
Thank you so much for this article about complaining and gratitude. Since I read about not complaining in the Thirty Thousand Days article a couple of months ago, I have been practicing not complaining. It took me about three weeks before I had a day with no complaints! The reason I started was because I thought, "Oh, this is going to be easy; I hardly ever complain." I found out differently. Then I discovered that by evening I almost everyday forgot what I had complained about that day, so I decided to keep a journal about it, nothing very long or drawn out, just a little something to keep me focused. Later I wrote one day that I was grateful I hadn't complained that day. Now I always add something I am grateful for. And just the other day when I did something really stupid because I was being impatient I was forced to look at my impatience. Now I'm keeping track of that aspect of myself as well, and am writing about it. I find that impatience goes hand in hand with complaining, and I realize that I have the opportunity to be patient with the rest of my entire life; every moment has something of interest if only I will slow down and see it, and stop being the big director of the show. I really don't have to work so hard making everything go my way. What a thought!
Many grateful thanks to you all there at the ToDo Institute.
Articles from the
ToDo Institute’s Resource Library
An Interview with Robert Emmons, Ph.D.
Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, is one of the foremost authorities on the topic of gratitude in North America. He is the author of more than sixty research articles and several books including, Words of Gratitude: For Mind, Body & Soul (Templeton Foundation Press, 2001 - co-authored with Joanna Hill) and, Thanks! (Houghton Mifflin, 2008). He has been studying what makes people happy for nearly twenty years and in this interview, conducted by Thirty Thousand Days Ass't Editor Trudy Boyle, Emmons reveals some of his conclusions about the practice and importance of cultivating gratitude.
Author, Gregg Krech, discusses the theme Cultivating a Sense of Gratitude in Relationships based on his presentation for the One World Library Project.
The Art of Self-Reflection
Naikan is a method of self-reflection developed in Japan by Yoshimoto Ishin. Its structure uses our relationships with other as the mirror in which we can see ourselves. We reflect on what we have received from others, what we have given, and what troubles we have caused. Genuine self-reflection affects so many aspects of our life—the presence of gratitude, our relationships with our loved ones, the degree of judgment we place on other's faults, our mental health, lifestyle choices, investment decisions, even our faith in a supreme being or force.
Attention, Obstacles and Gratitude (audio)
An excerpt from a public radio interview with author Gregg Krech about attention , obstacles and the experience of gratitude. Approximately 2 1/2 minutes....
Not Complaining -
by BROTHER DAVID STEINDL-RAST
"Later I asked myself, what is it that upset me? And the answer is change. And this is where all of this gets connected with gratitude. You see, I don’t want change. The little me doesn’t want change; it’s very allergic to change. You see how this is connected with complaining? It’s the little me against the rest of the world. And the little me sees itself as entitled to something. The world owes me something. But really what on earth does the world owe you when it comes down to it? Absolutely nothing."
A Hurricane with My Mother's Name Would Not Destroy Me
So what does gratitude have to do with any of this??? First, the hurricane stripped the veil of the ordinary from my eyes. Electricity is miraculous not ordinary. Without it, the sirloin rots, the mattress mildews, the milk curdles. Gasoline is not ordinary either. Without it, the Honda becomes an aluminum shed and the groceries must be walked home in a pull cart, a trip that turns Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia into soup.
I benefit (quite often, I might add) when others/things are simply doing their job. When I experience this and respond with thanks, my world changes. Try it. Go through one whole day, saying "thank you" to everything and everyone who does something that serves you in any way.
The full text of this article is available to ToDo Institute members only.
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Seven Principles for Cultivating Gratitude
By Gregg Krech
- Gratitude is independent of one's objective life circumstances;
- Gratitude is a function of attention;
- Entitlement makes gratitude impossible;
- When we continue to receive something on a regular basis, we typically begin to take it for granted;
- Our deepest sense of gratitude comes through grace -- the awareness that we have not earned, nor do we deserve what we have been given;
- Gratitude can be cultivated through sincere self-reflection; and
- The expression of gratitude (through words and deeds) has the affect of heightening our personal experience of gratitude.
Expressing Gratitude is Transformative
Expressing gratitude is transformative, just as transformative as expressing complaint. Imagine an experiment involving two people. One is asked to spend ten minutes each morning and evening expressing gratitude (there is always something to be grateful for), while the other is asked to spend the same amount of time practicing complaining (there is, after all, always something to complain about). One of the subjects is saying things like, "I hate my job. I can't stand this apartment. Why can't I make enough money? My spouse doesn't get along with me. That dog next door never stops barking and I just can't stand this neighborhood." The other is saying things like, "I'm really grateful for the opportunity to work; there are so many people these days who can't even find a job. And I'm sure grateful for my health. What a gorgeous day; I really like this fall breeze." They do this experiment for a year. Guaranteed, at the end of that year the person practicing complaining will have deeply reaffirmed all his negative "stuff" rather than having let it go, while the one practicing gratitude will be a very grateful person. . . Expressing gratitude can, indeed, change our way of seeing ourselves and the world."
-Roshi John Daido Loori
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- Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier
by Robert A. Emmosn, Ph.D.
- Try Giving Yourself Away
by David Dunn
From the film, Connected: A Declaration of Interdependence.
Take a moment to appreciate the intricate web of life.
“We pray for our daily bread; bread gives us the strength to do so. ”
“If the only prayer you say your entire life is 'thank you' that would suffice.”
"Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted--a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul."
Rabbi Harold Kushner
Thirty Thousand Days
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