Friday, December 23, 2011

Grateful for the Banquet of Life - Part II

As we move through the holy days of three spiritual traditions, I offer these thoughts on three ways that we can improve our "gratitude attitude"—approaching life as a banquet, a feast—even in what feels like challenging times. 

(Part II appears today. Part I was posted earlier this week.)

Grateful for the Banquet of Life

Part II

Eat mindfully.

When your holiday table overflows with delicious concoctions, instead of gobbling your food, consider eating "mindfully." Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, describes how in his lovely book, Peace is Every Step. Eat slowly. Take a bite and chew each forkful 8-10 times. Don't chatter through the meal. Eating with silence, or in positive conversation, allows us to connect, not only to the food but also gently to those around us. "Having the opportunity to sit with our family and friends and enjoy wonderful food is something precious, something not everyone has," Hanh says. Many people in the world are hungry. Eating mindfully, with compassion, connects us to a global family, and a bigger picture of life.

Remember your manners and use them.

Say "thank you" more often and feel what response you receive. Look people in the eyes, smile and say it; you will receive an even bigger response from them. Use the word "please." It humbles people and can change their attitude toward you. Speak to others like you want to be spoken to. Good manners beget good behavior. As each of us models positive behavior, a light shines forth to encourage others to do the same. Using the "magic words" of "please" and "thank you" can shift our perspective, keeping us mindful of the opportunities available to us.

Speak your gratitude out loud and mean it.

Vocalizing thankfulness seems to shift something inside of us. The next time you are speaking to a friend notice something sincerely wonderful about them and tell them so. Watch what happens. Their inner glow will begin kindling. Yours will too, knowing you are responsible for this little flicker. And as result, gratitude for the gift of their friendship can bloom. This is a wonderful exercise to do at family gatherings, especially over dessert. When the meal is done, when we are feeling sated and full, take the time to share an expression of appreciation, not just for the culinary skills of the cook(s), but for each person seated at the table. As we see the beauty in each person, our lives are immeasurably enriched, communication enhanced, bonds strengthened.

This holiday season may we strive to behave better at the feast. I wish you a bountiful table, loving friends and family, and a heart so full, that upon departing, we burst forth into the world showering ourselves—and everyone we meet—with thankfulness and an attitude of appreciation.


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