Someone wrote (in June 2014):
I do make a point of practicing gratitude, taking a few moments of reflection every night before bed.
I (Sandra) responded:
A few moments isn't good enough. Change your thoughts so that gratitude is with you all day. Make your decisions with gratitude in mind. Breathe in gratitude when you take a breath to think of what to do next. Open the refrigerator door with gratitude that it's not empty. Flush the toilet with gratitude that you have plumbing.
Karen James quoted me and added:
This has proven to be one of the single most important choices I've made in my own thinking. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude for the many gifts in my life has taken me from a place of hopelessness in my mind, to one of abundant possibilities. Because my life *looks* more abundant to me, every moment holds more potential. That doesn't mean my life is all wonderful and easy. It does mean that I have access to more emotional, creative, and intellectual tools to help me move toward the kind of life I want for myself and my family.
"Ceaseless Joy"? How much joy is enough joy?
Ren Allen, on UnschoolingDiscussion
Someone wrote in public:
Maybe dishes make other people joyful. Maybe that's why they think I should
be joyful while doing dishes. Hmmm . . . maybe I am OK not being joyful every
minute. Maybe this isn't a problem for me. Maybe I don't need someone to tell
me it's OK not to be ceaselessly joyful.
Ren Allen responded:
I don't know anyone that is ceaselessly joyful! We all have our ups and downs, sure. But we can always choose to see the silver lining, so to speak. Seeing the world with eyes of gratitude may be a more practical way to explain it.
For instance, washing dishes may not be my favorite activity, I can think of many things I prefer. But I can choose to grumble and feel bummed that I "have to" do this "chore" OR I can choose to be grateful to have hot running water, my loved ones alive and with me to use dishes, to have food to need dishes for etc...there is SO much to be grateful for in the simple act of washing dishes.
Anytime I feel resentment building up I try to look at the activity or situation in the light of death. If the one I loved were gone, cleaning up after them or reminding them of something for the thousandth time might seem endearing, rather than irritating. I'm quite sure I'd miss lego parts strewn through the house if Jared was gone from my life.
Seeing our life work, our choices through the eyes of gratitude changes everything. When financial difficulties set in, I can be grateful for our health, for our togetherness and the true wealth we DO enjoy in this country. When I'm sick, I can be grateful I have family to care for me and that I can recover from whatever is ailing me, unlike many folks suffering much worse fates.
We have the ability to choose gratefulness in any situation. For me, this has been life changing, though I still have a long ways to go! And I have tried very hard to take the words "have to" out of my vocabulary. Some of you may feel it's just semantics, but it's empowering to see everything I do as a choice.
When I'm getting ready for work I have caught myself saying "I have to get to work now" and stopped myself, saying " I CHOOSE to go to work and I need to be there soon." Simple? Perhaps. But sometimes the simplest details lead to more mindful living. The richness of abundant living is in the details.Ren
Schuyler Waynforth's writing, below, was preserved by Renee Cabatic and republished on her blog in June, 2009, here
(I've done a couple of technical edits and thrown in some paragraph breaks. I left the entire piece of writing so the boldfaced paragraph stays in its original context, but that's the part that's so beautifully about gratitude.)
"At the Life is Good conference Beth Fuller led a circle chat on Peaceful Partnerships. In it she asked who among believed that everyone was doing the best they could with what they had in any given moment. So, I'm going to ask you that question: Do you think your husband is doing the best he can with what he has at any given moment? It is a really important question. Or, maybe not, maybe it is just a question that really resonates with me.
I don't do it, I don't believe it, or I didn't. I wasn't among the hand raisers. That question has been sitting with me for almost a month now (has it really been that long?), can I give people the benefit of the doubt to believe that they only and always are responding with the best they have in any given moment? Part of it is that I can't quite give myself that benefit of the doubt. Well, maybe that is all of it. Maybe if I could believe that even in those moments where I am the least of what I want to be, I am doing the best that I can with what I have, maybe then I can extend that trust to other people.
Right now, in front of the television, there are a slew of origami papers and markers and paper dolls and other bits and bobs from Linnaea crafting one or another thing. As I peer closer I can see a bird she made and drawings she's drawn and planes she designed as toys for the kittens. I will probably go over and tidy it up in a little bit, to keep the pieces safer from folks walking around and to make sure that there isn't food for the ants. It takes only a moment to turn what you describe as rubble into a series of activities, of joyous moments. They are still lifes waiting to be interpreted. I can see the shadow of her sitting there and doing and making and talking and turning to Simon to show him or running to fly the plane she made in the hallway to see if it would fly well enough to engage whichever kitten it was designed to amuse, or calling to me to come and interpret whichever fold the origami book was describing onto the paper she was folding. It isn't rubble, it is her life.
I've gotten in social hot water for being so forthright about my feelings about parenting and food, largely. The potential cost for my social faux pas was to Linnaea and to Simon and not to me. Because of that I've worked really hard to change my perspective and thus my approach. One is to recognize that I'm not all that concerned about the parenting, more about the child. That means I can be generous to the child without worrying about what their parent is doing, or at least not so much. It may not seem to make a lot of difference, but it kind of cuts them out of the picture. It allows me to worry less about the parenting and just be the adult I want to be when interacting with the child or children.
The other thing that helps is to recognize how lucky I am that I get to do this life. I know that it's not just luck, it's a lot of work and thought and reading and breathing and patience and curiosity and exploration. But I have a life where I can be home or out and about with Simon and Linnaea in ways that so many other people I know just don't seem to be able to manage. And while I am sure if this life was something they really wanted they could achieve it, it is still because of all the wonderful gifts in my life that I am able to do this. It helps a lot to see my life as this wonderful joyous trip that I'm on.
Sometimes I screw up, some moments I suck and grouch and say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Who am I to throw stones at glass houses? I get to live with my choices and so do other parents. I try and limit my expression of opinion to appropriate forums. Here is great. Here I'm asked what I think and for help and advice. In other people's homes and lives and company I don't have to be on call as an advisor. And when I'm asked for advice, I need to take it with a grain of salt, and be prepared not to have anything that I say be taken more as a momentary conversation.
In August 2011, Leah Rose quoted me on Facebook. I had to hunt around to find the source, and it was a post on the Always Learning list. She had quoted the last paragraph below, but I've brought a longer passage.
Yesterday in the chat we were talking about people moving from being
cynical and negative to truly being happy, a couple of people were
admitting having been the kinds of people who thought "happy" was
stupid. One wrote:
Original writing is here: Always Learning, August 2010
"I used to be annoyed by 'happy people'. I thought they were either
pretending or just plain stupid."
This might not apply to the situation at hand, but IF a mom is sure
that the cool moms are sighing and being impatient, then she might
want to be that way too—to be martyrly and sorrowful about how hard
The same life can be seen from many different angles.
The same situation can be seen while holding one's breath and being
furious, or while seeing the alternatives and finding ways to be
grateful, no matter how small, because on one small bit of gratitude,
one can step up and see another one, and another.
A topic on facebook turned from video games to choices to depression, and in the course of trying to tie it back together, I wrote:
Parents should not be looking for trouble, for negativity, for ways to criticize and condemn their children. That is not gratitude.
from a discussion at Radical Unschooling Info, on Facebook
Parents who want unschooling to work should be positive, upbeat, hopeful, helpful.
A parent with a child who loves a video game should look at what is wonderful about that. He is physically able to operate the controller or whatever it is (keyboard, wii). He is bright enough to figure out at least part of a game that has aspects that would challenge any player. He has found something that sparks his joy or curiosity. He is playing that game, rather than doing something sad or destructive or negative.
If a child doing something harmless and happy is thwarted by a parent spouting false doom, the parent is the problem.
The game isn't the problem, the parent is the problem.
The child isn't the problem, the parent is the problem.
A parent who is willing to be the problem is more likely to find himself or herself depressed and alone than a parent who is willing to be part of the grateful hopeful postive helpful support the child needs.
Rejecting a Pre-Packaged Life
generosity in housework
Outside, scientific commentary: Why Gratitude is Good, and The Neuroscience of Why Gratitude Makes Us Healthier