November 28th, 2008

Generic Meditation Issues: Gratitude

My spouse, Dianne, my son, and I spent Thanksgiving with my daughter, Karen, her husband Mark, her son and his two daughters.  It was a delightful evening, full of good food and good conversation.  As the oldest person at the table, I was asked to say "grace."

Grace, despite or because of its plethora of meanings, has always been a somewhat mysterious term to me.  Charm, beauty, appropriateness, generosity, mercy, reprieve, favor, excellence, power, sanctification, protection, especially when any of these things are undeserved, are suggestions given by my dictionary
Then there is that little prayer before meals, grace, gracias, thank you.

Dianne always says grace before meals; I almost never do.  Thanksgiving is an exception only because I get asked to do it.  I'm not sure why I don't say grace, or pray at all for that matter, its just not a habit I've maintained as an adult.  I know I am graceless in the sense of being awkward, but I never thought of myself as being an ungrateful person.

Certainly, I have plenty to be grateful for.  I am healthy, financially well off, smart, loved, and not unhappy,  Of course these things are relative.  I have emphysema, arthritis, diabetes, acid reflux disease, coronary artery disease, I'm overweight, and my vision is dimming; some people would not consider that healthy,  My financial security is conditional on my wife staying healthy enough that I can continue to take care of her and on me staying healthy enough that I can take care of her.  That could change in an instant, but I have no sign that it will.  Any situation can be an occasion for either gratitude or ingratitude depending on how one thinks about it.

In 12 step programs, an "attitude of gratitude." is considered to be precondition for recovery of sanity.
In most monotheistic religions everything we have is an undeserved gift from God  (that is probably true of all other religions as well--prayers of gratitude seem pretty near universal).

Ego stands in the way of my thanksgiving.  Ego tells me I deserve every good thing I get, and more.  But life is not a game where I ought to be keeping score.  Expressing thanks when one receives a gift is just plain good manners.  Gifts like sunrises: canyons: starry skies: tree-lined river banks: pretty women: friends: love: good conversations: funny jokes: opportunities to console or help others; thought provoking experiences, sermons, cartoons, etc: good books: spiritual insights: playing children: mentors: elders: grandkids: and many, many, more things.