The Power of Thankfulness

There is one sure fire medicine which cures all pain and opens the way for your greater good. It allows you to sleep well at night, wake up refreshed and filled with enthusiasm for your daily tasks. This medicine is abundantly available, has no side effects and can be taken in large or small doses regularly. You need no one to prescribe it. The more you take, the sweeter it is. The medicine is the practice of thankfulness.

Although there are endless cures for anxiety, one thing is impossible – to be upset and grateful at the same time. When we take thankfulness on as a practice, we see that gratitude is more than a fleeting feeling, it is a daily practice, a basic way of life.

In fact, no matter what we are feeling, we can always perform deeds of thanks; actions that express our gratitude and awareness of the good we constantly receive. Actually, when we perform these actions, our feelings often turn themselves around. And as we constantly express our gratitude we become more and more aware of all we have to be grateful for.

There are two important aspects of this practice; one works with our actions, the other with our attention. Rather than give in to our usual self-centered focus, we take our attention off our habitual complaining mind, and continually make ourselves aware of what we are receiving, moment by moment, day by day. Most of the time we feel we are constantly giving and receiving little. Most people feel drained and unappreciated. However, when we focus instead upon all we receive, we will be amazed at how much we have taken for granted.

A strong support and underpinning for this practice comes from Naikan therapy, which was developed in Japan. Naikan is simple, simple, direct and incredibly powerful. It can be done by anyone at anytime. In Naikan, we take time to focus upon and answer three fundamental questions; it is best to get a notebook for this, sit down and write your answers down, very carefully and specifically. A Naikan sitting usually takes from thirty to forty minutes. The three questions are: What did I receive today? What did I give today? What trouble or pain did I cause today?

Answering these questions carefully and persistently can change our lives. The third question does not exist to create guilt, but simple awareness of our behavior and its effect upon others. When we notice that we have caused some trouble or pain, we can then simply correct it. And once we are aware of it, it is much less likely we will do it again.

We do not ask how was I hurt or upset today. The mind constantly dwells upon this question and the purpose of Naikan is to balance our lives and minds. We can do Naikan on the day, or on anything else. In the Naikan retreats that go on, we do Naikan on relationships, taking three years at a sitting. What did I receive from this person? What did I give to this person? What trouble or pain did I cause this person?

As we do this wonderful simple practice daily we naturally become more aware of and grateful for the many, many gifts we constantly receive (most of which we have either taken for granted or been unaware of. The fullness we usually seek in others, comes to us on its own. And then, inevitably we just want to give back. It happens naturally.

When we are so filled with thanks and plenty, it is impossible not to do so. The practice of thankfulness, of acknowledging others, giving back to them, being aware of and moved by the good we are giving, can heal many aspects of a life. It washes old hurts and resentments away. It opens the door for good to arrive. It is a gift we give to ourselves which others receive simultaneously.