“As far as I can tell, gratitude is generated in two ways—one, by a spontaneous upswelling of the heart toward the wonder of life and all its particulars, and two, by a conscious decision to practice looking at what’s right in our lives rather than focusing on what’s missing.” – From Giving Thanks
While some people think that having “more” will bring them fulfillment, everyday folks are waking up to a realization that spiritual masters have taught for eons: the quickest path to joy is an attitude of gratitude.
Author M.J. Ryan has a knack for recognizing the brilliantly gleaming facets amid ordinary circumstances—despite the challenges, fears and expectations that can encrust our hearts, damage relationships and threaten our well-being.
In the 127-page hardcover book Giving Thanks: The Gifts of Gratitude, inspirational quotes, compelling anecdotes and lush full-color photographs couple with Ms. Ryan’s earthy yet piercing insights on cultivating a spirit of thankfulness and remedying the gaping “gimmies” that often underscore Western living. From the green-eyed monster to taking things for granted, pondering our mortality to accessing fond memories, Giving Thanks reminds us of the myriad of ways we can live each moment to the fullest while still acknowledging that, at times, very crappy things happen (my words, not hers!) Here are some of the superbly rich observations shared in this lovely book:
“One of the most incredible truths about gratitude is that it is impossible to feel both the positive emotion of thankfulness and a negative emotion such as anger or fear at the same time. Gratitude births only positive feelings—love, compassion, joy, and hope. As we focus on what we are thankful for, fear, anger, bitterness simply melts away, seemingly without effort.”
“Gratitude makes us feel good because it helps us widen our frame of vision. Under depression or stress, we can develop tunnel vision, seeing only this problem, that difficulty. We can get overtaken by a heavy, dark feeling of despair. But when we experience a sense of gratitude, we give ourselves a dose of mental sunshine. Suddenly the world seems brighter, and we have more options.”
“Ah, perfectionism! Those of us afflicted with the pesky bug may look with amazement (You mean you don’t care if you didn’t do it perfectly??) or disdain (What kind of lazy, good for nothing guy *are* you?) upon those who don’t suffer from it, but the truth is, of course, that it springs from our own sense of lack. We simply don’t believe we’re good enough as we are in our humble, human, imperfect state, and must therefore compensate by being Miss Perfect Goody-Two-Shoes.”
“While we can be thankful for past blessings and hope for future ones, when we experience a sense of gratefulness, we are usually contemplating some present circumstances. We are brought up to date with ourselves, so to speak. Our focus moves away from all that we or others did or failed to do in the past, or what we hope for or worry about in the future, and we find ourselves placed squarely in this precious moment, this experience that will never happen again.”
Divided into three sections—The Gifts of Gratitude, the Grace of Gratitude and the Acts of Gratitude—Giving Thanks by M.J. Ryan is a wonderful book to use as a daily devotional or for contemplation, as well as stretching the boundaries of personal comfort zones. In addition, Giving Thanks would make a thoughtful holiday gift for just about anyone, including those who already practice the art of thankfulness.
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