Don’t Retire, ReFire: The spirit of thankfulness

By Gail Supplee Tatum, Columnist, The Times

Here we are in the month of November, where the fourth Thursday is designated as a day to give thanks.

Do you celebrate Thanksgiving on the day only, or do you celebrate the spirit of thanksgiving every day?

If you currently just look to the day, but have the desire to open your heart to more than that, what you need to do is slow down, be still, listen, notice and be present.

You might live with a thankful heart but want to deepen your everyday thankfulness. How we accomplish this is also by slowing down, being still, listening, noticing and being present.

Our world is so harried, whereby so many demands are put upon us, leading us to put more demands on ourselves. I find when this happens, many things get partially done but not very well, leaving a feeling of disconnect and dissatisfaction.

I have found, in speaking with many, over fifty, that the older we get the more we realize what is truly important in life, and it’s not that next business deal. It’s our loved ones. It’s taking in and soaking up all the goodness around us and then sharing that goodness as we go about our day.

It is our duty, as elders, to teach our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and all those we encounter, the importance of slowing down, being still, listening, noticing and being present, in the moment. This is done, not just by our words, but more importantly, by our actions.

We must help them understand that each moment is a gift that will pass, just like minutes on the clock. That minute, that moment, will never be again, so make it count.

How can we stay in a mindful state in order to slow down, be still, listen, notice and be present?

  1. Training ourselves to slow down is one of the most difficult adjustments to make. It is retraining ourselves to be mindful of every move we make. Slowing down is good for our well-being. The factor behind most accidents is hurrying. For example, to help avoid a fall, hold on to the handrail and take one step at a time down the stairway and to help avoid an accident, give yourself plenty of time to drive to your destination, just to name a couple. What things do you need to downshift from?
  2. Find time, each day, to be still. Start off with just five minutes and work your way up. Put soothing music on or have complete silence. Savor every sip of your coffee or tea, in your stillness. Create your environment exactly the way you want it.
  3. In your stillness or in the course of your day, pause and listen. Do you hear birds chirping, children playing, people laughing, dogs barking, music playing? All of this and more connect you to your world. Find joy in that. In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you. Deepak Chopra
  4. Be a Noticer. By noticing what’s going on around you, something may present itself that needs your assistance. For example, like helping someone, in the food store, who is reaching for an item that’s out of their reach. Be on the lookout for someone who might just need a smile. It could be the very gesture that keeps them going, rather than giving up. On a deeper level, you might notice a relative at a family gathering who seems to be uncharacteristically quiet and somewhat withdrawn, who just needs to be acknowledged. There is so much to notice and respond to, we just have to raise our awareness to it. Become a good noticer. Pay attention to the feelings, hunches, and intuitions that flood your life each day. If you do, you will see that premonitions are not rare, but a natural part of our lives. Larry Dossey
  5. Being present and in the moment is as challenging as slowing down. Most of us are guilty of talking to someone, yet checking our phones. When we are present in a conversation or activity, we are demonstrating the importance of that conversation or activity. We show, without words, that we deeply care. The present moment is the only moment available to us, and it is the door to all moments. Thich Nhat Hanh

True peace and happiness is actively living in a state of thankfulness and gratitude. Even if things aren’t going well or as we wished they would, there is still something to be grateful for. We can be grateful for another day to show our gratitude, to make a change and to make a difference in our world. To quote Steve Jobs, We’re here to put a dent in the universe. That’s an awesome thought, isn’t it? It’s our duty to contribute the gifts we’ve each been given to make the world a better place.

There are those who have lost their way and don’t think they are good enough, who think something is wrong with them. They could be in your family or circle of friends or in your workplace. Stay open and notice what’s around you.

If we adapt the spirit of slowing down to notice those around us, we will soon develop this way of being as natural as breathing, rather than something we have to consciously force ourselves to do.

Wishing you joy and gratitude as the holiday season greets us.

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