Being Grateful for Blessings
There are many things that we can be
thankful for, even though we may be suffering. When we are
overwhelmed by our confusion, pain and sorrow, we forget the
beauties and opportunities that life can offer.
"Do you think Thailand is a third
world country?" The question, put to me by a young Thai
woman surprised me. Having lived and taught in Thailand for
a number of years, my perceptions about the country had changed
I no longer looked it in terms of being
a first world or third world country. It was and is just a
place where I live. Still, her question got me thinking about
something that I had not reflected on in a very long time.
Like all humans, this writer has his issues to deal with,
feeling up and down at various times, reflecting on the past,
experiencing the present and wondering about the future.
But then I take a walk around my neighborhood
in Bangkok, and I realize that I have much to be thankful
for. I can read. I can write. I have two legs. I have two
arms. I can see. There are people on the streets of Bangkok
who do not have these benefits. Not a lot, but a few.
In developed or what are known as first
world countries individuals have great personal and social
benefits, freedoms and opportunities to derive growth, happiness
and pleasure from. But having visited these countries, Japan,
Australia, and England and lived in The United States for
most of my life, I have met, seen and experienced individuals
who are lost or confused about their life experience, regardless
of the benefits and opportunities they are provided in these
first world countries and societies. This is not an age issue,
or a gender issue, or really dependent on whether one is married
or not, or has a family or not. One is initially liable to
think that if we are not alone and have a family to experience
life with, we are more likely to be experiencing love, companionship
and fulfillment. The reality of life is that this is not always
true. Many times it is the lack of communication, internal
and external harmony, and mutual understanding and respect
within the family that leads to some of our greatest problems.
At times, things can look pretty desperate.
We lose our ability to see that there are things within ourselves
and others that can interest and excite us, and more importantly,
teach us things that we can benefit from learning. We need
to make an effort to be exposed to those teachings, those
teachers, and those people and situations which do inspire
us. Is it another day or night of hanging our with our friends,
drinking and smoking, compromising our mental and physical
health for a few moments of enjoyment?
Are we spending all our time with our
friends gossiping about or talking badly about others in a
slanderous way? Do we get so belligerent in our aloneness
to others or when we are with our friends, in relation to
another person or group, that anger and violence are not far
away? Have we got so overwhelmed by the negativity of our
life experiences and our perceptions of those experiences
that "we become prisoners in our own self "made
cells of bitterness?" (1) Are we looking at others and
the world with feelings of pessimism, distrust and cynicism?
Do we "spiritually devastate those who had placed their
trust in us"? (2) Dr. Charles R. Swindoll reminds us
of some important things in his writings. He states that "disturbing
lessons occur in all our lives" (3) and that "in
times of deep pain and doubt, it's normal to withdraw, to
want to be alone. But we must be careful not to isolate ourselves."
(4) When this happens, we may turn to drugs and drinks to
escape from our bad feelings, or start to interact with people
who may manipulate or hurt us. Neither drugs, drinks or other
confused or scarred people will help us. We must not allow
ourselves to get to a state where we can not longer see and
strive for those things that are within us that are healthy
and good. They are within all of us. We have been taught that
"man is born with impulses that make him swerve from
the path of peace and rectitude, and modern civilization stimulates
many of these impulses strongly. (5) It is easy to not
know where to turn for guidance that is sincere and will really
bring about a change. The things that may be asked from us
may seem monumental to do and achieve. But we have to understand
that many of our bad feelings that may be causing us pain
or despair are within us and can be dealt with through our
No one can do it for us. Others can share
with us, talk with us, guide us, teach us, but the real commitment
and effort is up to us. Many will have an awakening on their
own. The feelings of pain and sorrow, our suffering, is just
the calling of the internal spirit for release, letting us
know that we have got to the point where we have to access,
cultivate and maintain it. One noted teacher of Yoga has described
suffering and the pain and sorrow that accompanies it in this
way. "It is the desire of your spiritual self to bring
about a cessation of the unsatisfactory state of affairs and
thereby a distinct change."(6) Christian teachings often
refer to suffering as being something that makes us stronger
and wiser. Unfortunately, many people reject religious and
spiritual teachings as being nonsense and impractical as they
apply to modern life. We fail to see that they tell us how
to live, and more importantly, that in living in this manner,
we bring about a change within ourselves.
We are taught in Christianity to live
in this moral manner in obedience to a higher power or to
please a deity or to access the reward of heaven. In Buddhism
and Yoga, through these ways of living, and an understanding
of how to live, we balance our own consciousness and thereby
see others and the world in a more positive light. Perhaps
most importantly, we see ourselves, and think and feel better
as individuals with more clarity and joy.
When we see things more clearly, we become
more mindful of those habits and routines that may be compromising
our mental and physical health and balance.
In addition, we have the energy to act
in ways based on that mindfulness that bring greater things
into our lives.
Those who have recovered from drug and
drink addictions always find that they have more energy, and
that they sleep and eat better.
Sure there are new challenges to face.
That is what life is, a neverending series of challenges as
we strive for the greatest joy within us.
One of the beauties of life that is available
to us, even when we are overwhelmed by pain or despair is
hope. A hope for a change. A hope for a love. A hope for a
true friend. But we do not have to sit around waiting. We
can do things in this moment that will elevate our perceptions
on the world.
We can take deep slow breathes. We can
eat healthier food. We can meditate. We can relax. We can
search out people, organizations and teachings that appeal
to us. We can understand that life will be hard, but the suffering,
pain or confusion that we are experiencing now may form the
foundation for joy, appreciation and wisdom in the future.
(1) Swindoll, Charles R. Christ at the
Crossroads (Anaheim, California Insight for Living. 1998)
(2) Christ at the Crossroads, page 134
(3) Christ at the Crossroads, page 56
(4) Christ at the Crossroads, page 62
(5) Piyadassi, Thera. The Buddha's Ancient Path (Kandy, Sri
Lanka Buddhist Publication Society. 1964), page 163
(6) Chidananda, Swami. The Philosophy, Psychology and Practice
of Yoga (Tehri-Garhwal, India The Divine Life Trust Society.
1991), page 27
Copyright 2003 John C. Kimbrough. John
lives and teaches in Bangkok, Thailand. He can be reached