Gratitude and Chronic Illness
It seems to me that this is one of those situations where the more you need the benefits of the practice, the harder it is to do. Like meditation. It's been my observation that the more unsettled my mind (life) is, the harder it is to just sit down and be quite for fifteen or twenty minutes. And the more we need the benefits that gratitude can bring like human growth, joy, creativity, vitality, delight, hope and connection, the harder it is to be grateful. I offer this post as a way to possibly evoke a sense of gratitude, in spite of the fact that we live with chronic illness.
From Seasons of Grace: The Life Giving Practice of Gratitude (emphaisis added by me)
"Gratitude — as conviction, practice, and discipline — is an essential nutrient, a kind of spiritual amino acid for human growth, joy, and creativity. Take away the daily experience and expression of gratitude, and life is quickly diminished. Like a weakened immune system, the spirit is left vulnerable to the diseases of cynicism, anger, low-grade depression, or at least an edgy sense of dissatisfaction. Gratitude-deprived, we suffer a relentless loss of vitality and delight."
Seems kind of obvious that what we DON'T need is lack of gratitude in our lives, on top of everything else!
But how can we feel gratitude when through no apparent choice or fault of our own, our lives have been swept out from under us? Some people seem to be able to come to it sooner than others. It has taken me literally years. I look at people like Jenni P. of ChronicBabe.com and am amazed at how quickly they seem to have come to acceptance of their situation and moved on to dealing with it effectively. For me, acceptance has been a long time coming. But that's a different post. Or three. I think that acceptance of my situation has been key in allowing me to come here, to the threshold of a regular gratitude practice. I'll keep ya'll "posted" on how it goes.
Here's an excerpt on Attention from "Seasons of Grace: The Life-Giving Practice of Gratitude" by Alan Jones and John O'Neil with Diana Landau, from the Spirituality & Practice site (emphasis added by me again):
Alan Jones, Episcopal priest and Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and John O'Neil, President of the Center for Leadership Renewal and an advisor to leadership teams and a director of numerous company and foundation boards, salute gratitude as a sign of spiritual maturity. Here is an excerpt on "going live" as a way of keeping alert to what is happening inside and around us.
"Every day the world offers itself to be seen. Seeing things with a grateful eye requires attentiveness and engages our imagination; imagination is a way we take part in the world, not escape from it. We can train ourselves to see the immensity of the commonplace, the world offering itself to our imagination every moment. A poem, a piece of music, a particular smell: if we pay attention, these can open up new worlds.
"Such ordinary experiences not only affect the present moment but also shape our sense of the future. In other words, they give substance to hope. Sometimes it's as if a piece of music or a painting or a book takes possession of us, and we feel amazed and honored to have such guests inside us. We become the host of the undreamed and unexpected. The genuinely new becomes possible. Springtime returns.
"Going live involves deciding where to focus our attention. Human beings, suggests the poet and translator John Ciardi, 'are what we do with our attention.' Or as the mystics would say, we are what we contemplate. If we give our best attention to things that ultimately fail to satisfy us, we get into trouble. Going live, then, may be the act of attending to what's really going on inside and around us. This can be unnerving, because it sharpens our awareness of life's fragility and difficulty. But it also awakens us to life as a gift and starts the wheels of gratitude turning. The positive feedback that gratitude produces is what allows us to stay live, to not shut down."