Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Gratitude Attitude

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We all know how easy it is to take our bodies for granted--atleast until they let us down. Then we're sure to let them know, whether conscious of it or not, how frustrated, disappointed or disgusted we are. We can't get well fast enough, lose weight fast enough or get in shape fast enough. We're tough critics of our own bodies most of the time.

A woman I worked with recently who was diagnosed with cancer admitted that before cancer she pretty much just told her body what to do and assumed it would listen. Like her, most of us make our bodies our servants, meaning that they pretty much have to do what we want and don't get a lot of praise for it. How do you think they feel?

Because we demand so much of our lives, asking that we constantly do and be more, it's easy to neglect and become a task master to our bodies just as we are with ourselves. But we need to ask ourselves how it feels when someone else does that to us. A client of mine who works long days for a reputable company said recently that if no one acknowledged him for what he did, "I'd just say, 'screw this!'" The acknowledgement is what keeps him going. And yet how many of us do that to our bodies? We ask and ask and ask of them without pausing to thank or to give back.

With Thanksgiving just a day away, I'm thinking about the effect of gratitude and appreciation on the relationships I have in my life. Many of my friends have reached out this year to say how grateful they are to have me in their lives, and I have been so moved by this that I too am reaching out to tell those I care about the same. The effect--on both sides of gratitude--is uplifting. As both the recipient and the giver of gratitude, I feel lighter, energized and more alive. I wonder if our bodies, when we pause to appreciate them and acknowledge all they do for us, might also feel the same?

Consider the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto, featured in the recent movie, 'What the Bleep Do We Know?' If you saw the movie, you might remember the remarkable effect that certain words like 'thank-you' and 'I love you' seemed to have. In his research on the effect of words and thoughts, Dr. Emoto found that frozen water contained very different kinds of crystals depending on what thoughts were directed toward it: "Water from clear springs and water that has been exposed to loving words shows brilliant, complex, and colorful snowflake patterns. In contrast, polluted water, or water exposed to negative thoughts, forms incomplete, asymmetrical patterns with dull colors." (

If our bodies are more than 60% water, it becomes even more urgent to consider what effect loving thoughts of gratitude have on our physical selves, vs. thoughts of fear, loathing or frustration. We owe it to ourselves and our bodies to remember and communicate all that we appreciate. Our bodies won't leave us until we die, but--as with any partner that feels unseen or unappreciated--they can become distant and resentful. Over time, their resistance may manifest as disease, discomfort, or perhaps--if you take seriously this research on water crystals--a deep and essential disorder.

Whatever we ask of our bodies, we ultimately ask of ourselves. The tireless and relentless criticism and pushing harm both of us. Ask yourself what it would take to shift to an attitude of gratitude--today, tomorrow, or any day--rather than constantly asking more of yourself with no return. What would it take to acknowledge all your body does for you and to express your gratitude toward it on this day of almost-Thanksgiving? As you think about doing that, how does the energy in your body shift, change and open? How do you feel different?

You just might find as you make this shift that the pieces seem to fall together, that you already feel the energy and lightness of having received what you wanted all along. An attitude of gratitude not only acknowledges what we have, but it makes us more open to everything that's possible around us. What if all you have asked of yourself you already have: a table full of blessings laid out before you, ready to be tasted?