“Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior’s world.” – Pema Chodron
I recently finished Anne Lamott’s book “Help, Thanks, Wow” and I was super inspired by it. It’s basically a book about prayer, but in typical Anne Lamott fashion, it’s a beautiful poetic and “modern” take on how even the simplest prayers make a difference.
Because of my years spent in a unforgiving, fundamentalist uber-religious school environment I still cringe a bit when I hear the word “prayer”, and I hesitate to mention it or talk about it, because I’m afraid it has the same effect on other people. Even though prayer is something I think is incredibly beautiful, meaningful, and individual, it still carries an implication with it that makes me uncomfortable.
Here’s a confession- when people say they “pray” regularly, or one of their favorite things in life is “prayer”, I tend to assume that they will judge me for not believing the same thing that they do. I know that’s wrong, and I almost immediately backtrack (usually trying to find out more about the person I am interacting with so I can correct my impression) but it’s something I’ve been struggling with for a long time. The environment of my former school was one where the word “pray” and “prayer” was usually used in the context of threats and obligations rather than connection and opening the heart. It’s exactly the same as “gratitude” was before I started this very project.
And I’ll admit that writing this feels uncomfortable, as well. I don’t want to talk about prayer and either have people assume that I am fire and brimstone and, as a result, spook them off, or have people offended because prayer is very sacred to them and here I am, redefining it for myself outside of the terms of organized religion.
ANYWAY, since Lamott devoted 1/3rd of the book to gratitude and thankfulness, I thought I’d share a bit here.
“If we remember or are reminded to pay attention, we find so many sources of hidden water, so many bits and chips and washes of color, in a weed or the gravel or a sunrise…
… Gorgeous, amazing things come into our lives when we are paying attention: mangoes, grandnieces, Bach, ponds. This happens more often when we have as little expectation as possible. Astonishing material and revelation appear in our lives all the time. Let it be.
… “Thanks” is a huge mind-shift, from thinking that God wants our happy chatter and a public demonstration and is deeply interested in our opinions of the people we hate, to feeling quiet gratitude, humbly and amazingly, without shame at having been so blessed.
Unto us, so much is given. We just have to be open for business.”
– Anne Lamott, from her new book “Help, Thanks, Wow”
I think that’s what gratitude and prayer *should* be about (at least for me)- “being open for business.” Paying attention, allowing things to sink in, and saying “hey, thanks!” without reservation or fear. And knowing it’s perfectly enough.
Always a work in progress.
Common Miracles is a project I started in May, 2011 to examine and discover how gratitude works in everyday life. To find out more about Common Miracles please visit the very first post about this project, located here.