For the first few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, most Americans felt a heightened sense of gratitude. As a New Yorker, I found myself suddenly grateful for things ordinary -- water, a roof over my head, and electricity -- and extraordinary, such as the flood of calls and e-mails from friends and family making sure I was okay.
But, I keep wondering, can I possibly make this feeling last? Can the country as a whole? To do so will require us to think radically anew about gratitude, making it a notion far more central to our lives. We'll need a "gratitude revolution."
As a nation, we've designated one day each year to give thanks for our blessings. But the world's faiths and spiritual traditions have long emphasized the value of creating small, regular, frequent rituals to make us continually conscious of what we have. Here are eight ways -- some plucked from the world's religions, others from spiritually-creative people of today -- to help keep us on a heightened state of gratefulness alert.
"When we first wake up, our minds are very subtle and delicate," says Tibetan Buddhist teacher Thubten Chodron. "If we set a strong positive motivation at this time, there is a greater chance of it staying with us and influencing us throughout the day."
There's a Jewish prayer, the shechechiyanu
, whose exuberant spirit of praise and gratitude makes it a beautiful way of beginning the day:
Blessed art Thou, Lord our God,
Ruler of the Universe,
For keeping us alive and preserving us and
Permitting us to behold this day.
A Shinto morning prayer states:
"I pray that this day, the whole day, as a child of God, I may not be taken hold of by my own desire, but show forth the divine glory by living a life of creativeness, which shows forth the true individual."