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Gratitude Is Good

September 2021

Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts, and benefits we’ve received, says researcher Robert Emmons.

In gratitude we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves.

We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.

The practice of gratitude helps us to see the good and the positive in our lives, which helps us appreciate things that we tend to take for granted. Yet, despite the power of gratitude to improve our well-being, gratitude has its limitations: it cannot eliminate negative events from our lives. No matter how much we practice gratitude we are still bound to experience negative emotions like disappointment, guilt, vulnerability, and grief.

Here’s where mindfulness comes in: How can we accept negative events and negative emotions that we are bound to experience in our lives? The practice of mindfulness meditation can help us to accept and observe our feelings and our external reality with compassion and a nonjudgmental attitude. We cannot stop reacting to negative events with sadness or with pain, but we can try to accept our moments of vulnerability and watch them gradually and naturally fade away.

But gratitude and meditation didn’t start in our time. This week’s Torah portion

opens with offering the first fruits (bikurim) when we come into the land .

So yes, you will inherit the land, but remember to show some gratitude and bring a thanks-offering. In other words, recognize that not all this is your doing.

After that comes the command to build an altar --once again to offer thanks.

Judaism tries to cultivate our ability to be grateful.

As we approach the high holidays, imagine that at the end of Yom Kippur of last year you received a note from G-d saying that you are going to have a good year. You’d be overjoyed and full of thanks. We are in the month of Elul, which is an opportunity to look back at the year we had and see all the good we have received since last Yom Kippur.

So before asking for another great year, give thanks for the previous year!

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