I am thankful for many things.
Besides my family and friends, I am grateful for the breathtaking beauty of our planet. While sipping a cup of herbal tea this morning, I enjoyed the warmth of the sun on my face, the caresses of the gentle breeze, the different shades of green on the trees in my backyard. I amused myself observing our cats on the ground, coaxing pigeons to fly down from the rooftop.
Hot shower and cold faucet
I am grateful to be able to shower with hot water, just by turning a handle. I even have a filter and massage showerhead.
I remember spending a few winter months in Kathmandu, Nepal, where I had rented a room in an affluent part of town. There was a faucet in the yard, with cold water available from 8:00 am to 10:00 am and from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. The owners were grateful to have a faucet, even if it meant standing on frozen grounds to get water; most people had to walk to the local fountain. Oh, how I do appreciate my modern bathroom with hot running water.
From shampoo to beaches
Win Wenger developed a technique called image streaming. Observe an object, a cup for instance, and allow your mind to link that object to another, to a person or an idea, then to another and another. Image streaming for 10 minutes a day for 2 months is said to increase your IQ.
I was taking a shower and enjoying lathering shampoo in my hair, thankful that I had found such a great product. I started to stream. Gratefulness. My shampoo’s main ingredient was coconut. I had a vision of coconut trees on a beautiful island, with sandy beaches and blue skies. I imagined the young men climbing the trees to gather the coconuts, and was grateful for the workers who extracted the ingredients, for the people who assembled the products, for the bottles being filled and shipped to different stores, for the person who ordered these shampoos and placed them on a shelf where I could find them. Image streaming. Gratefulness streaming.
Going against the grain
I am writing this article during the Thanksgiving season, when “Focus on what you have and be grateful!” is proclaimed incessantly. Supposedly, being grateful should conjure up blessings, but the statement brought me discomfort, reluctance, even fear.
Something was amiss. What I cherished and was grateful for had been taken from me, yet situations I bitched about got better. Why did gratefulness work in reverse for me? Could there be a deeper truth? Could gratefulness go too far?
As I shared my observations, I could see heads quietly acquiescing. I was not the only one facing this dilemma.
From Pollyanna to a cult
I had a wonderful childhood, spent in Switzerland, surrounded by a loving family. Nobody ever raised their voice. My heroes were Heidi and Pollyanna. In psychology, the “Pollyanna principle” describes somebody who has a very optimistic outlook, with a subconscious bias toward the positive. I was groomed to embody this principle: always look for the positive in any situation.
My family was Christian. I “met” Jesus when I was 10 years old, spent hours studying the Bible, got disenchanted in my teens, became an atheist, then an agnostic, then a Buddhist (that’s why I was in Kathmandu with cold water in winter, on a spiritual pilgrimage). I came to the United States, got married and was inducted into a “Christian” cult.
The marriage did not work. After a couple of months, I was seeking a divorce. The church said, “God hates divorce.” I did not dare defy God. The only reason for a divorce was if one of the spouses was unfaithful, so I earnestly prayed for 18 months, “Please, God, help my husband find a better mate.” It did not happen.
Women in this church were trained to obey husband and pastor:
- “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
- “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will.”
- Submit unto death!
The long way home
I put on my Pollyanna hat. Although my circumstances were bad, I told myself that they could be worse. I was grateful I did not suffer through Auschwitz. I was grateful I was not in Rwanda. I thus spent 20 years in isolation, battered and raped, being a “grateful Christian wife.” That, I believe, is gratefulness gone too far, which leads to many illnesses.
Gratefulness is an energy that comes from the heart.
It’s NOT about positive thinking and denying the reality of things. It’s NOT about casting warm feelings or thoughts on a situation that is abhorrent.
Face it, change it, then let love, joy, and peace overflow from your heart.