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Thanks and Giving

Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart. Seneca

As a coach, I sometimes ask a client, "What are you thankful for?" This gives her the opportunity to stop and consider her life and to articulate what she appreciates. I encourage her to think about not just the big things for which she gives thanks (good health or her children) but also the many small things (for example the smile that comes to her face when she witnesses her cat sleeping with paws crossed, her co-worker's offer to buy her a latte, the sun as it streams into her office in the late afternoon). By paying attention to what we are thankful for, we give ourselves a moment to pause. This pause is like a breath, a waking up to the present moment.

In his book, Peace Is Every Step, Vietnamese Buddhist Zen master and poet, Thich Nhat Hanh, offers the following lines that can be said to oneself as one breathes in and out:

Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment!

Consider when someone says "Thank you" to you in a heartfelt way, and how that makes you feel - acknowledged and appreciated. It is so easy to say, "Thank you" and yet many of us don't do it often enough.

Marshall Goldsmith, in his book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, suggests including three components in expressing appreciation: this is what you did; this is what I feel, this is the need of mine that was met. For example, I might say: "Thank you. I really appreciate your offer to feed my cat when I am away. I am grateful to know she will be well taken care of." "Thank you for getting the financial report to me today. I know that meant you had to put another project on hold. I feel so relieved that we were able to get the application in on time."

Thanks and Giving. When expressing thanks to another person, we give something of ourselves. We give our attention, our focus, and our words of gratitude. We honor that person and our relationship. By speaking and thinking words of thanks, we embody gratitude. It becomes a way of being in the world.

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. Thornton Wilder

I have noticed that it is sometimes easier for people to say the words "thank you" and "please" to those outside of their immediate families than it is to their own spouses/partners/children. One client said, "I don't need to tell my husband thank you. He'll just think I am being sappy". I propose that we can never say thank you enough if done in a heartfelt manner, by looking the person in the eye and saying "thank you" with true gratitude. And in fact the place to practice these words is with our families.

By generating kindness within my home, I am more able to bring it out into the world. If I start the morning by saying thank you to my husband for refilling my coffee cup, and thanking my nephew for brushing his teeth without my asking him, we all start our day with peace and gratitude. These small gestures add up and over time create an environment of respect and well being that we can then transport into our daily lives.

I propose that today you count how many times that you say "thanks". Tomorrow, make an effort to say thank you more often. Observe how that makes you feel. Observe how others react to you. Now choose if you want to make the phrase "thank you" a more important part of your vocabulary.

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
-William Arthur Ward

© Sue Schleifer, 2007

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