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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Make the Chili

Dec 02, 2021 06:00AM ● By Paul Chen
This issue happens to land between our national holiday for giving thanks and our season of giving. Of course, we should be doing both more than just once a year. 

Prescriptions given by those advising others how to live happier inevitably include a gratitude practice. Recognizing that I could stand some improvement in this area, I started a gratitude journal this year; when I climb into bed, I write down three things about the day that I’m grateful for. 

And you know what? It works! I write down three things, read them over and my heart just expands. 

It’s striking to me that so much of what I am grateful for are simple things. I often express gratitude for being able to move—for being healthy enough to walk, jog, lift weights, stretch. That may be in part a reaction to my mother’s very poor health; it has been painful for me to see the person to whom I owe my life no longer able to walk. I have continually given thanks for beautiful days—experiences of being outside feeling the sun upon my skin, being embraced by comfortable temperatures and being cooled by gentle breezes. 

I also repeatedly feel appreciation for human connections. Whether I am having conversations with customers, prospects, interviewees or staff, this job continues to expose me to people who genuinely care about others and have dedicated their lives to being of service. I can’t imagine many other jobs in which one constantly encounters everyday saints.

Then there was last Friday, a day in which I found myself in ecstasy all morning, brimming with gratitude for just one thing: being alive. I found myself calling friends just to say how much I appreciate them, including our most wonderful managing editor, Diane Eaton. Just so y’all know, the high degree of editorial quality that greets you every month has everything to do with Diane. 

Still, my most profound expressions of gratitude have been the thanks I give to difficult and undesirable situations. From the Buddhist perspective, the thing to do when bad things happen to you is to rejoice! They are the ripening of bad karma. They are the debts you no longer have to pay—assuming you take the opportunity to address the character flaws that created them in the first place.   

According to a Google search, the electromagnetic frequency of gratitude is 540 megahertz (MHz) and that of love is 528 MHz. In other words, they are quite similar. But in practice, we think about gratitude in the context of receiving and love in the context of giving. In the “spirit of the season,” I share with you a few of the more moving words about love I have recently encountered. Although I plucked these from Facebook posts—meaning, realistically, they might not be true—the sentiments are real. [Posts have been lightly edited—Ed.]

Gratitude Lessons from Kids 

A group of children, aged four to eight, were asked: “What does love mean?” Here are some of their answers:

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too.” 

“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and just listen.” 

“If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.” 

“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” 

To me, the winner was a four-year-old whose next-door neighbor was an elderly man who had recently lost his wife. When he saw the man crying, the boy went into the man’s yard, climbed into his lap and sat there. When his mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”

First Things First 

A good friend of mine unexpectedly lost her husband. A couple of months later, we were running together, chatting about nothing. She asked what my dinner plans were, and I told her that hubby wanted chili, but I didn’t feel like stopping at the store. We ran a few more minutes when she quietly said: “Make the chili.” ❧

From all of us at Natural Awakenings to all of you: 
May your holidays be full of love, joy, peace and calories that self-destruct upon touching your tongue.

Paul Chen has been owner/publisher of Natural Awakenings Atlanta franchise since January 2017. He is a practicing Buddhist and a founding member of East Lake Commons, a cohousing community.

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