Grateful Heart, Joyful Heart

From Awakening Joy: 10 Steps to Happiness

by James Baraz and Shoshana Alexander

We can get so focused on what we’re doing (or on the next thing we have to do) that we can overlook how much
we have to be grateful for.

wine glass half full - photo by Andrzej GdulaPart 2:  The Glass Half Empty

What gets in the way of feeling gratitude? Most participants in the Awakening Joy course name the culprit as the frenetic pace of their lives. They write comments like these:

   • Rushing through the moment, I often get fatigued and then tend to take things for granted.
   • In my usual goal- and achievement-oriented attitude to life, every moment has to be spent productively.
   • I have the belief that I must complete a list of "to do's" before stopping to enjoy anything.

Many of us probably can relate to those statements. We can get so focused on what we’re doing (or on the next thing we have to do) that we can overlook how much we have to be grateful for. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time to smell the roses. While there’s a place and time for not being distracted from our goals, we can become so habituated to a fast pace that even when we don’t have to get somewhere or get something done, we just keep going.

When Laurinda broke some bones in her foot, she was forced to slow way down. As she hobbled around the house with a supportive brace, she began to notice that even though she couldn’t move quickly, inside herself the rushing pace she was used to was still driving her. It was as if she would miss something if she wasn’t fast enough. As Laurinda made the effort to pull back and literally take it just one step at a time, she began to see how much she really had been missing.

"Every night I brush my hair, but suddenly I saw that I had been going at it like it was a chore. Instead of a wonderful pleasure that I could relax and appreciate, it was just something to get done. Rather than quickly counting off the one hundred brush strokes, I started feeling each one and noticing how good it felt to lift my arm and draw the brush through my hair. I found I could actually slow down inside and give myself this simple joy. I felt so grateful, not just to change this small habit, but to begin to release the tension that has been a lifetime habit."

Next in the series: 
Part 3: Gratitude Squelchers

See Also:
Part 1: Introduction
The Space Between Givens
Part 2: The Glass Half Empty
Part 3: Gratitude Squelchers
Part 4:  Right Under Our Noses

Part 5: "Grace Described as Obstacles"
Part 6: Glass Half Full
Part 7: The Benefits of Gratitude

Part 8: Strengthening Your Gratitude Muscle
Part 9: The Gratitude Perspective
Part 10: Deepen Your Happiness Groove
Part 11: Scattering Gratitude Like Joy

Part 12: But I Can't Be Grateful to Them!
Part 13: It Would Have Been Enough...

Book Cover of Awakening JoyWith their book, Awakening Joy: 10 Steps to Happiness, Baraz and Alexander have created a guide that anyone can follow to develop a practice of Joy. One of the steps is cultivating gratefulness, and this series focuses on that chapter, Grateful Heart, Joyful Heart.

James Baraz has been teaching meditation since 1978 and the Awakening Joy course since 2003. He leads retreats, workshops and classes in the U.S. and abroad and is a founding teacher of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California.

James is co-author with Shoshana Alexander of Awakening Joy, a new book based on the course. In addition, James is on the International Advisory Board of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. He lives with his wife in the Bay Area, has two sons and three grandchildren.

Visit his Awakening Joy website.

Shoshana Tembeck Alexander is the author of In Praise of Single Parents, Women's Ventures/Women's Visions, and, with the Findhorn Community, The Findhorn Garden. She has studied Buddhism since 1970 and has guided various works of several prominent Buddhist authors, including Tara Brach, Sharon Salzberg, and Wes Nisker. She lives in Ashland, Oregon and teaches fiction and non-fiction writing.

Awakening Joy: 10 Steps to Happiness, Parallax Press, Berkeley, CA,© 2012.

The above excerpt is posted with the authors' kind permission.