M. J. Ryan is the author of The Power of Patience, The Giving Heart, and many other books. She is one of the creators of the Random Acts of Kindness series and a contributing editor to Good Housekeeping. This spiffy volume contains material from her 1999 book Attitudes of Gratitude enhanced by beautiful color photographs.
Ryan has a knack for finding just the right quotation to make her points and on these pages, you'll find a treasure trove of material on the spiritual practice of gratitude. She is convinced that making a daily commitment to be thankful can transform our lives in ways we cannot begin to imagine. Gratitude is such a positive and uplifting attitude: it enables us to "bathe ourselves in good hormones and feel happier and more content with our lives."
All the wisdom traditions point out the value of gratitude. Although it seems like a simple spiritual practice, there are many obstacles that get in the way when we try to be thankful for what we have. Ryan examines some of these comparisons, expectations, envy, anger, greed, and taking things for granted. Here are some quotations from the book which illustrate the potency of the attitude of gratitude:
• "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. . . . Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
• "Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul."
Rabbi Harold Kushner
• "Whatever we are waiting for peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart."
• "Saying thank you is more than good manners. It is good spirituality."
• "To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude."
• "Gratitude is like a flashlight. If you go out in your yard at night and turn on a flashlight, you can suddenly see what's there. It was always there, but you couldn't see it in the dark."
• "It was then I learned that gratitude is the best feeling I would ever have, the ultimate joy of living. It was better than sex, better than winning the lottery, better than watching your daughter graduate from college, better and deeper than any other feeling; it is perhaps the genesis of all other really good feelings in the human repertoire."