Monday, February 21, 2011

Gratitude is a Skill That You Practice

A poem by Dan Bloom, reprinted with permission. He says he still needs practice! The poem was written in 2003 retouched in 2011. Thanks, Dan!


Gratitude is a skill that you practice
and get better at,

said a ten-year-old boy in Tokyo one day when I was a teacher there.

yes, gratitude is something we learn

as we get older

accumulating wisdom and knowledge

but sometimes we forget

gratitude is something to be thankful for it is a skill worth practicing over and over again until we get it right

we need to appreciate what's good in our lives instead of always complaining looking at the negative side of things.

yes, gratitude is a skill that you practice and get better at month by month year by year

and over a lifetime
we might finally learn how to say

thank you

thank you to the universe
thank you to our parents
thank you to our loved ones
thank you to our children
thank you to our teachers

gratitude is a skill that you practice
until you get it just right

and it doesn't happen overnight

it takes a lifetime of rehearsals
awareness and an open mind

to fully appreciate all the good things
that have come our way

on this journey from not being to being

on this pilgrimmage among the stars

on this pathway to enlightenment and aha!

Learn to say thank you

in as many languages as you can master

and tell it to everyone you love and care for

thank you
thank you
thank you

shieh shieh,

and as you practice gratitude
day by day
year by year
zen koan after zen koan

gratitude will become you
it will suit you fine
and you will become one
with thankfulness.

Gratitude is more than a 9-letter word,
it is a gift from life.

Use it!
(c) 2003 Dan Bloom

UPDATE: Give legs to your gratitude by sending notes. John Kralik decided to send one note every day. See the results in his 365 Thank Yous.


Anonymous said...

A beam of light from Danny Bloom.

Milo Thornberry said...

Thanks, Steve! It is a beam of light!

dan said...

A friend of mine in Wisconsin who I first met when he published a very good letter to the editor in TIME magazine some 5 years ago about climate change and the need to combat it, just sent me this blog piece he did earlier in the year re gratitude:

Thanks to Psychiatry!

By H. Steven Moffic, MD
webposted on December 3, 2010

We've just had Thanksgiving and I have been in a most thankful mood.
I'm still feeling that way after returning to work--and even after an
email from a colleague reminded me of one of the many problems facing
our field. The colleague marveled that a plumber called by her
daughter over the weekend charged $175 an hour.
I think it's interesting that society will pay as much or more for
plumbing of our waste than for plumbing the depths of our minds.
Regardless of this reimbursement issue and the many other problems in
our field, I give much thanks for my career in psychiatry. Here's why.
When I was in high school, I read Freud's Interpretation of Dreams and
was fascinated. Combined with my mother's desire for me to be a
physician, what better career choice than a psychiatrist?
Of course, being so interested in Freud as an adolescent implied that
I was curious about myself, and maybe even needed psychiatric help.
And I did. I was voted "Most Accident Prone" in High School as
confirmation of that.
Actually, the most help for myself came from my wife, but psychiatry
did its part. I was trained in the era when personal treatment was
expected, and I did receive some psychotherapy during my residency. It
also helped.
And, in turn, psychiatry has allowed me to feel that I've helped
others. . . to play my part in Tikkun Olam, in healing the world. Not
that this is ever easy. Psychiatry is a relatively young profession
and the brain is well-protected and not easily assessable to study or
On Thanksgiving Day, I heard a radio interview with the jazz great
Dave Brubeck. About the same time I was learning psychiatry, I began a
lifelong fascination with jazz and Brubeck was an early favorite. On
the show, Brubeck discussed how sometimes he has felt like a
psychiatrist in managing and interacting with his musical group. In
addition, he discussed how one's profession would influence what one
paid attention to in the world. For him, his love of music led him to
pay particular attention to the rustling of the wind, the burbling of
the streams, and the clanging rhythm of a car going over bumps in the
road (which helped lead to his innovations in jazz rhythms).
In a similar way, psychiatry has helped me to see the world with more
depth by sharpening and strengthening my senses. This includes hearing
and listening, but in a different way than Brubeck. We were taught to
listen to patients with a "third ear" for unspoken messages. I think
we also can learn to see with "3-D vision" for the hidden messages of
appearance. When shaking hands, the nature of the touch may be
revealing. We can also learn how to "smell a rat," though
unfortunately, that took me a long time.!

dan said...

( part 2 of Dr Moffic)

A psychiatrist - - at least one with some psychodynamic training - -
can't help applying this way of looking at the world to everyday life.
That's why I might quickly think that Colonel Sanders of Kentucky
Fried Chicken fame might be of special meaning to the Chinese if they
associated his appearance to the revered Confucius and their emperors
of the past. (See last month's blog). Sure, one has to learn to keep
this kind of reaction in check for fear of inappropriately applying it
to one's children, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues. Those who
are not our patients don't appreciate that we are trying to read their
minds or analyze them, as the public commonly assumes anyway.
Psychiatry has exposed me to people and populations in ways that would
have been unlikely or impossible in any other way. Every patient has a
deep and unique story if you allow enough time and trust to hear. In
what other field would I have had the chance to work with the
transgendered, with refugees from so many countries, and with prison
inmates, often all in the same week? One can see not only their
weaknesses, fears, and problems, but also their strengths, courage,
and potential contributions to society - - and to me. The
psychiatrist is often privileged to encounter the heights of service
and the depths of evil; courage and/or cowardice; morality and/or
I feel psychiatry has helped me to fulfill my destiny in this life.
I've come to believe that each of us is challenged to find the best
way to use our unique psychology and skills. Psychiatry has been that
for me.
There may be one more reason to feel grateful about feeling gratitude.
As I was finishing this blog, I ran across new research that suggests
that feeling gratitude can improve one's mental and physical health.
If so, I hope I have expressed enough gratitude to psychiatry!

dan said...

and Mitsuko in Tokyo, married to Saturo and with one son age 10, read the poem here just now and said:

Konnichiwa Dan-san,

Wonderful poem!
Thank you for sharing "gratitude" !!
Yes, I will practice it too!