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Complaining Versus Gratitude

In this week’s Torah portion Sh’lach, the people requested to check out the land of Israel before they enter. Twelve princes --people of stature--one from each tribe,

are chosen to go “spy” out the land of Israel, presumably to learn the character of the land and habits of its inhabitants or to help develop a military strategy.

They come back with a mixed report and conclude that it’s not possible to go into the promised land due to the inhabitants, who are giants and “stronger than them….. We are grasshoppers in their sight.” The people heard their report , panicked and said that it would have been better to die in the wilderness rather than try to enter the land that

G-d has promised them.

How is it that these same people who saw miracle after miracle and felt G-d’s constant protection and bounty were wailing to go back to Egypt, the land of their enslavement?

In times of prosperity there is a risk of ingratitude and forgetting all that we have.

Most of us are fortunate and have what we need–good health, family , employment.

We have a lot of good in our lives, but when things are not 100% right, we complain.

We are actually hard wired to remember the negative.

The negativity bias refers to our proclivity to “attend to, learn from, and use negative information far more than positive information”

Negative events often elicit stronger responses than non-negative events.

Which might explain why we often recall and think about insults more than compliments, dwell on unpleasant events more than pleasant ones, and focus our attention more quickly on negative rather than positive information

Gratitude is built into daily Jewish life.

The first thing we say when we wake up in the morning is Modeh Ani, thanking G-d for restoring our souls to us after a night’s sleep.

We are taught very early on in our lives, not to take things for granted and to demonstrate our appreciation and thankfulness and feelings of gratitude towards all kindness received and from whom we receive them. The first part of our morning prayers are blessings -called Birchot Hashachar– for things we may take for granted– getting out of bed, being able to see, the ability to walk, having our needs provided for, and so on.

How many of us wake up in the morning and really count our blessings? Many of us take these precious gifts and so many others for granted

Being grateful means we have less to complain about. It makes life happier, being conscious of all that we have

Gratitude is a positive state of mind and expressing it gives us a sense of contentment and well being

According to Rabbi Eliezer Weisz of Kfar HaRoeh, in our daily lives, we must see

“that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes

us happy.”

Also, showing gratitude to other people brings happiness to the recipient.

Gratitude and appreciation are important in building healthy relationships

How do we look at the “big picture” before we start complaining? The big picture is that there is an abundance of blessings we are enjoying despite the bumps in the road that we sometimes go over.

How can we learn to cultivate gratitude?

And how can mindfulness practice help us ?

Let’s start a mindfulness meditation on gratitude.

Settling in, in your chair, the floor or your bed. Inside or outside.

Where you are, is less important than the intention you bring to the practice.

Start with noticing something simple you are experiencing at this moment.

It could be the side of a tree swaying gently in the wind, or the warmth of sunlight on your skin, or maybe the experience of comfort from the chair you are sitting in, or the simple wonder of pausing in the midst of your busy life to engage with this practice right now.

Choose one thing to notice and allow it fully into your experience.

Let appreciation and gratitude arise and fill your body and mind (pause).

And now thinking of something else we may take for granted: the things that you use that support your work and your personal life. Your computer, your books, work space, car, equipment or tools, or anything else.

Choose one thing and consider all that was needed for it to be created.

Maybe you bought it at the store or received it from someone, but someone took the time to make it.

Appreciate and feel gratitude that you have access to these things. (pause)

And taking a moment to feel gratitude for people you work and live with.