Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Gratitude Attitude

The T'ai Chi Chih Teachers' Conference this year (our 25th!) focused on gratitude. To elaborate on that theme teachers were asked to bring their favorite quotes about gratitude and share them with conference attendees.

In addition, a group of Minnesota TCC teachers created a ritual about gratitude and invited us each to make a beaded bracelet as we thought about what we were grateful for in our own TCC classes and practices. We then hung our gratitude-infused bracelets on pins stuck in the wall (the pins were pre-arranged in a pattern that spelled out the word "gratitude") and, after our final TCC practice Sunday morning, we each selected a bracelet out of a bowl to carry home with us. What a wonderful symbolic gesture!

Gratitude can be a slippery topic. Often we have plenty of reasons to be grateful for our lives. Instead we focus on our frustrations, disappointments, disabilities, ... you name it. In Sr. Antonia's September Newsletter she shared a quote by Paul Reps that Justin Stone, TCC's founder, uses in various settings: How grateful I am with no thing to be grateful for. Justin then added that he didn't say, "with nothing to be grateful for."

Sister then quoted from a talk Justin gave to the 2005 T'ai Chi Chih Teachers' Conference in Albuquerque, NM. He said, in part:
... it's very easy to have a good life. One word tells you how: Gratitude. If you live with gratitude and express the gratitude, you can't be unhappy. You can't be unhappy and feel gratitude. The two don't go together. I say (many times during the day) what I'm grateful for. True gratitude doesn't come from getting a new car, or from when something good has happened. That lasts two or three days before it wears off. True gratitude and bliss are synonymous. I would say from my experience: If you're looking for a good life, be grateful.... I believe that teachers who've taught you T'ai Chi Chih have helped your lives very greatly. Do you agree? If you're doing T'ai Chi Chih and getting the benefits of it, it's not hard to be grateful. That's the secret of a happy life....
Yes. I am grateful for the life I lead here in the middle of the woods. Grateful for the trees that surround me. For my partner and the animals that share my life. For the beautiful plants and wildflowers that gather 'round me in ever-widening circles. I welcome the peace and silence that grows within me when I continue to return, again and again, to my t'ai chi chih practice. I am grateful, as well, for my t'ai chi chih students who continually teach me.

So, too, am I grateful for today's TCC practice on the deck in the middle of glowing green light. It was so silent--not even a single puff of breeze lifted a leaf--that I could hear the sounds of silence....

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