When you begin to notice that you are bogged down by too much to do, and stress begins to rear its ugly head in your relationships with defensive comments, blame, and accusations, pay attention. These are signs and symptoms of a relationship heading into meltdown.
When this happens in my own life, as it did this morning, I examine, “What is the underlying pain, here?” It is then that I realize that one or the other or both of us are feeling like we are doing everything we can, but in the mundaneness of the expected and mandatory tasks of life, we feel unappreciated. Expressing gratitude for their contributions, no matter how routine, shifts our loved ones from feeling taken for granted to appreciated. Even more important, perhaps, is the shift in our own being from the expectations of the ego to the gratitude of the spirit.
As I have said before and will say again, the ego is protective in nature. It wants to make sure “you get yours.” The ego is the voice of defensiveness and blame. The challenge is that this stance always blocks love’s ability to come and go with full force. The voice of spirit would never speak this way—especially to those we love most in the world.
So, what would the voice of spirit say?
A simple thank you is often the remedy. “Thank you for getting up early to make the coffee.” “Thank you for mowing the lawn.” “Thank you for taking the kids to school.” “Thank you for calling.” “Thank you for creating this meal.”
It is said that Gandhi would meditate for two hours every day until he got so busy that he couldn’t possibly. On those days, he increased his meditation to four hours. The irony of this story is a great reminder that sometimes the very thing we are too stressed to do is the antidote to the stress.
When we are stretched to the max or someone near and dear to us is, it is hard to remember to say thank you and it is at those very times when we need to say it the most. By way of experiment, make it your practice today (and tomorrow throughout eternity) to say thank you to your children, your spouse, your friends, your employees or coworkers, your boss or investors, your parents, and your siblings. Say a silent prayer of gratitude to all the people who contributed to your life today—the known and the unknown. The people who grew and picked the food you ate at lunch; the truck driver who transported it, the fisherman, the farmer, the store owner, the plant or animal that you consumed. Thank God, Great Spirit, Universal Flow, Jesus, Buddha, whatever name you have assigned to the magical mystery that flows through all things for the blessings that surround you.
Then in your silent moments, turn your gratitude inward. What have you done today that you appreciate yourself for? This year? This lifetime? If everyone takes on the above practice of offering thanks to others, but no one offers thanks to themselves, we will all dismiss and deflect the gratitude being showered upon us. In order to receive love and gratitude from others, we must believe we deserve it. So be sure that a portion of your Thanksgiving practice is reserved for honoring yourself for your contribution to the world, or your family, or your workplace, or your self care. And, when someone offers you thanks, breathe it in. Receive the love.
Then, for the master class in gratitude, see if you can offer a silent (or audible) thanks to the most challenging of people and situations in your life. Ask, “How has this been a blessing to me?” Have they increased your strength, caused you to access resources previously unknown to you, allowed you to clarify your boundaries or seek help or understanding that launched you more deeply on your spiritual path? As we cared for my mom when she was dying from ALS, she said, “If I ever questioned if I was loved, this has shown me.” Even as she was dying she could see the gift.
Thank you for the honor of reading my blog. Thank you for inquiring into your own growth. Thank you for all you do in the world, but more importantly, for who you are.