I read an article sent me the other day by a friend working for Survival International discussing the dangers of ‘Rainforest Harvesting’. This is a process by which corporations claim to help indigenous groups in forests provide economic security for themselves by generating products for Western markets in a supposedly sustainable way. The article does not make for pleasant reading and so, for now, I am going to leave it here simply as a link so you can persue it at your leisure. I will be writing about it after the New Year. (Needless to say, the indigenous groups never get a good deal out of this ‘harvest’)
http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/publications : Click ‘Harvest Moonshine’.
I was close to writing about it now but thought a more upbeat concept could be better appreciated given the proximity to that festive, consuming time of year we now find ourselves imbedded in…
So, I recently found this guy Gil Fronsdal on the internet. He is a general good guy and teacher of various meditation techniques and he posts up his talks on a website which you can stream for free. Last night I was listening to a talk of his on Gratitude and it made me smile and think.
Recent clinical studies in wellbeing have found that one of the overriding factors that contribute to someone’s happiness in day to day life is how grateful they feel. The more grateful you are the more happy, relaxed and open you become. And what’s more, it appears that there is a really simple way to increase your gratitude in day to day life; keep a gratitude journal. Studies have been carried out in which one group are asked to keep a gratitude journal and every day writing down 3-5 things they have been grateful for. Another group is asked to keep a complaints journal, in which they would write down 3-5 things that they are unsatisfied about during the day, and then there is a control group who are asked to keep a neutral journal or just do nothing. Over a period of weeks the group who write a gratitude journal have markedly improved levels of wellbeing, positivity, desire to help others, increased exercise levels, less physical symptoms, feel closer to their families etc etc (http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/Labs/emmons/PWT/index.cfm?Section=4).
What these studies help highlight is a fundamental fact about ones own capacity to wellbeing; whatever you think about regularly becomes the inclination of your mind, and that quickly then becomes the habit of your mind. If you are inclined to thinking that you have good reason to complain because there are always things going badly for you, then the habit pattern of your mind will be, primarily, to see how you can complain about a situation. You may have very good reasons to complain, but still, I don’t know if that is the habit pattern I would want predominating my day to day thinking (although in reality, it probably is right now!), it just seems like a bit of a bummer. If your inclination is to feel grateful for things a lot of the time, you will be far more inclined to find positivity in situations that might otherwise seem bad, remember more positive things as opposed to negative and just generally feel blessed and contented.
Given the society we live in it would appear that we are not the most grateful bunch, we assume we have a right to so many things and then, in fact, we become annoyed if those ‘rights’ aren’t met. I never feel grateful for the fact that I can flush the toilet and someone else will deal with what happens next, I just assume its my right to have a running toilet. I rarely feel grateful towards the person who welded my bike together or installed the internet modem. All these things we just assume are deserved. And so, it is maybe important to know that most of us do not generate huge amounts of gratitude in our daily lives and therefore helping foster it and promote it can only be a positive thing. I am not talking about a forced gratitude, ‘you should feel grateful for this because so and so said so, or so and so did this for you’, no. I’m talking about genuine, unrequited gratitude just for the sake of it, which is a great thing.
So yes, what an exciting prospect, to be able to train yourself to feel better and more grateful without having to force anything, just thinking and writing down a few sentences once a day. I’ll be starting mine today.