How many times do we look around, but fail to really see? How often do we fail to give thanks for the blessings that bombard us every day, and instead focus on life’s small irritants? A recent movie title “Eyes wide shut” describes the way in which many of us waddle through life.
Norman Vincent Peale explained that he saw more smiling faces in the rice paddies of China than on Park Avenue. Whenever I want to make the point about abundance and excess within this country, I show my students comparisons of how they stack up against other people and the income disparity across countries. I think the abundance which many experience jades us to how truly wealthy we are.
The saying “we don’t know what we have until it’s gone” is true when we don’t appreciate what we have. Museo dialogo en la Oscuridad in Monterry Mexico is an attempt to bring awareness both to discrimination against the visually impaired, and to understanding their condition. Visitors experience what it’s like to visit a grocery store, board a bus, ride in a boat, and order from a restaurant (in total darkness, guided only by others’ voices and their touch).
At the end of the hour, I was glad to escape – and of course, this is exactly the point. For the visually impaired, there is no other option. Unfortunately it’s the tragedies that cause us to focus on what’s truly important – our lives, our family, our friends, and our health – the intangibles which cannot be purchased or replaced.
Keeping a gratitude journal – e.g., writing five things each day for which we’re thankful – is a great way to cultivate serenity. The very act of chronicling what’s working in our lives refocuses our thoughts in a more positive direction. After trying this exercise, Oprah claimed it changed her life: “…and I thought my life was pretty great.” Giving thanks for your blessings automatically brings good into your life through elimination of incessant wanting.
Failure to reach a satiation point is our downfall. Think how you can make things better where you are: instead of getting a larger size (e.g., house, office, car), what about taking better care of your belongings, finding creative and fulfilling ways to spend your free time, and better organizing the space that you have. How many things could you eliminate today? I love the story in Acres of Diamonds, which urges us to bloom where we are planted.
Today, try the following:
- Begin a gratitude journal; more than likely, the cure for what ails us is an inventory of our blessings.
- Scale back: it’s difficult to feel grateful if we’re frazzled, overworked, or stressed. Today, take stock of what you truly need, and work backwards to ascertain the actual dollar amount that this entails.
- Lend a hand: seeing the plight of others puts our own situation in stark relief.
- Realize that our time is limited: each day is a gift, and none of us is guaranteed another day. If necessary, post these sentiments in a place where you can see them. You may not have a second chance to cultivate a more positive attitude – start now where you are.