We know the health benefits of gratitude. If you need inspiring reminders, check out these suggestions. That’s not what I’m interested in this year.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote this week about the health benefits of gratitude. The increase in longevity, but more importantly, the increase in quality of life that an attitude of gratitude generates. Here’s what I want to add: in a social and political moment like ours, strong gratitude muscles will be spiritually indispensable to fuel the long haul of resistance that we know is coming– resistance to the increasingly acceptable new normal of sexism, misogyny, racism and anti-semitism, not to mention the ascendency of corporate interests over the voiceless environment, threatening the very foundation of our lives and the lives of future generations.
In this moment, we need to remind ourselves of the power of love as we speak of resistance, and the dangers of letting fear and anger drive instead of love. Love is the deep knowing that we are connected– the more we love, the bigger our hearts expand. The bigger our hearts expand the more power we have to fight for what is true, real, and right, not just for ourselves but for all people, especially those who are vulnerable and need of protection. Love lets us discover strength and endurance within ourselves we didn’t know we had to take on that fight, like a mother who discovers she can lift a car to protect her kid if need be.
One simple way Judaism offers us to expand our heart, is to practice gratitude. When you wake up, when you eat, when you notice the sun shining on a cold day, when you see one lone flower in a patch of dirt, when you see an old friend, when you’re falling asleep. Gratitude for your amazing unearned breath, for your unique soul, for your unique body. Today, tomorrow, and every day.
Below are the words I say every morning when I wake up– try it! See how adding the nourishment of gratitude, for things specific and general, felt and even just going through the motions, can expand your heart and expand your love. Lord knows we all need it– so do the people around your table tonight– and so does our world, now more than ever.
May your gratitude be persistent, may your love be expansive, and may your endurance be abundant.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!
מודה אני לפניך מלך חי וקים
שהחזרת בי נשמתי בחמלה רבה אמונתך
modeh ani lifan’eikha melekh hai v’kayam
sh’he’hezarta bi nishmati b’hemla rabah emunatekha.
Grateful am I, as I stand before You, Master of Life and Existence,
for You have returned my soul to me this morning in great kindness.
How incredible that You believe in me!
(gratitude prayer upon waking)