A Gratitude Practice

I’ve been doing a gratitude practice each morning. It’s part of a series of things I do each morning. This practice comes out of the book The Magic by Rhonda Byrne and I have to tell you it is working extremely well for me. There are times when I just feel like I’m walking around in paradise and I can directly trace those feelings of well being to this gratitude practice.

This morning was one of those times. I walked out onto 2nd Avenue in the cool of the morning. There were trees in their full spring bloom, a couple of sparrows went whizzing past me and the air smelled sweet. I had the feeling of being in heaven on earth as I walked toward the car.

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 31:  A street sweeper ...

NYC Street Sweeper

I got in the car and felt grateful to have a car that is good condition. I started it and prepared to move into that crazy New York City ritual called ‘Alternate Side Parking.’ In my neighborhood, each side of every street gets cleaned twice a week.  Residents who park on the street (which, in my area  is most of us who have a car) have to move their car and double park on the opposite side of the street to allow the street sweeper to come. A hefty ticket will result from doing this late or not at all.  Once the street sweeper drives past, all the drivers move their cars back to the original side of the street and compete for space.  There are never quite enough spaces in New York.

Car Radio of Analog Era

Car Radio

Well, as I started driving in my car this morning, I turned on the radio. The news came up, there was talk of a gunman in France getting killed by police; there was talk of some teen in Florida killed by the local neighborhood watch;  there was talk of the racism inherent in the criminal justice system.  It took about 30 seconds of that to smash my illusion of being in some sort of paradise.

 Gunman

Gunman

I turned off the radio and as I sat waiting for the street sweeper, I considered how it is that the most horrific items are at the top of the news. When I was in journalism school, the quote was ‘if it bleeds, it leads.’ Yep, violence, horror, frightening or angering things are the most useful items for a newscast. They rivet the attention. Anything that can get adrenaline flowing is game.

Some voice in my mind tells me I need to listen to the news so I can know what’s going on in the world, so that I can watch for large problems that might affect myself or those about whom I care.  But I know better.  The nervous distractedness that comes out of constantly cranking my adrenals disconnects me from my children, from my wife and from my own life.  Having something ‘on my mind’ takes me away from the ‘here and now.’

Français : Structure de l' adrénaline

Adrenaline

But here’s my concern: if the ‘here and now’ is, for some reason, not to my liking, getting something to distract me can be emotionally appealing.  And if my here and now gets really bad, the distraction can be soothing in a crazy way.  Adrenaline seeking can then become a habit, maybe even an addiction.

You’d think that the euphoria of the paradise I experience with this gratitude practice would be addictive, rather than some adrenaline blast taken from impersonal media. My experience is that people want movies and news and all sorts of entertainment that is violent, heartbreaking, horrifying or sexually provocative.

You know that “unalienable right” to the pursuit of happiness? Well, it seems to me that what we are after is an  unalienable right to pursue UN-happiness. So, in our collective gratitude practice should we give thanks to be getting the unhappiness we’ve have so perversely sought?

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