Angeles Arrien, Ph.D. is a cultural anthropologist, award-winning author, educator, and consultant to many organizations and businesses. She lectures and conducts workshops worldwide, bridging cultural anthropology, psychology, and comparative religions. Her work is currently used in medical, academic, and corporate environments. She is the President of the Foundation for Cross-Cultural Education and Research. Her books have been translated into thirteen languages and she has received three honorary doctorate degrees in recognition of her work.
Angeles' books include The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary; Signs of Life: The Five Universal Shapes and How to Use Them, (Winner of the 1993 Benjamin Franklin Award); and The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom, (Winner of the 2007 Nautilus Award for Best Book on Aging). Her recent book, Living in Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life is a Gold Medal Co-Winner of the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY Award) in the category of Inspiration & Spirituality.
A Shift in Perspective: Grateful Seeing
Grateful seeing is the ability to look first for what is good and working in our lives without minimizing or denying the hardships or challenges that are also present. Many traditional societies hold the perspective, or worldview, that what has been given to us ultimately ignites growth and strengthens us. Individuals who are viewed as seers in Indigenous societies are highly respected, honored, and valued for their gifts of insight, vision, and grateful seeing. The Maasai of East Africa, for example, call their seers diviners, ones who perceive in the seen and unseen worlds, that which is divine and good. We, too, can learn to be seers––seers of the blessings, learnings, mercies, and protections that are ever present on a daily basis.
As spring nears, we often extend gratitude for the emerging beauty, goodness, and bounty that is present in our lives. Vestiges of spring help us remember that whatever we need to rectify in our lives is often small in proportion for all the benefits we have extended toward and received from others. All the good intentions, prayers, good deeds, and kind words we have offered others are still with us; they cannot be taken away, and this is a great source of encouragement.
Emmet Fox, a scientist, philosopher, and spiritual teacher, reminds us that, “Errors of thought, word, and deed are worked out and satisfied under the law, that the good goes on forever, unchanged and undimmed by time.” Dacher Keltner, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, demonstrates that the intrinsic value that lies within the human spirit is not only to be a good human being, but to foster more goodness and well-being for others in meaningful ways. His research also indicates that the good that occurs in our lives, whether we have extended it or received it, is far more valued and remembered in our hearts than our errors or mistakes.
Gratitude and the actions it stimulates not only generates a sense of well-being, but also fills and strengthens social bonds and friendships. This practice of grateful seeing, looking for the good, allows us to see the gift of love–given and received–that is present in our lives.
––Excerpts adapted from Living in Gratitude by Angeles Arrien. Pages, 210-212.
Brother David Steindl-Rast has who is considered the worlds authority on the subject of gratitude, ahs written about the inseparable relationship between the heart, love, and gratefulness in his book, Gratefulness the Heart of Prayer. He has also created the Community of Practice on-line which contains invaluable resources not only on the practices of gratitude, but also includes books, research and articles that are available world-wide. Make sure this month that you visit this site at least once. www.gratefulness.org
In what ways are you shifting your perspective from looking at what is not working, to developing “grateful seeing” – looking first for what is working, and what is good in your life? Look for the areas of your life where your efforts have borne fruit or shown new growth emerging like spring.
Practice appreciating the gift of each day: Track who, or what circumstances ignite your generosity and gratitude this month. Acknowledge the gifts you have received and the thoughts, prayers, and kindnesses you have extended to others. Dedicate this month to giving thanks and this will strengthen your capacity for grateful seeing.