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What if gratitude became the focus of your life for a year? Cross-cultural anthropologist, teacher and author Angeles Arrien, PhD, whose work integrates stories, practices and traditions from around the globe, makes it easy to master gratitude in her latest book, Living In Gratitude.
Arrien was one of my own great teachers. I participated in her weeklong Four-Fold Way Training at the renowned Esalen Institute twenty years ago, and the information she shared laid the foundation for my evolving life journey. I was shocked to learn she became an ancestor at just 74. At the time of her sudden April transition she was teaching the “12 Perennial Wisdoms” around the country.
This world-bridging wisdom can serve as both template and platform from which to approach your HECM service — and your life.
Arrien begins by explaining the four universal “portals to gratitude”: Blessings, Learnings, Mercies and Protections.
- Blessings are those experiences we hold as “the good” in our lives. They sanctify us, call in grace. “Blessings are gifts that open doors to healing, connection, meaning and transformation.”
- Learnings cause us to grow and stretch, to reach new levels of excellence. The meaning of “challenge,” from a cross-cultural perspective, is an invitation to grow beyond the known or familiar.
- Mercies are the kindness and compassion we extend to ourselves and others; they are closely tied to forgiveness.
- Protections include rituals and invocations, such as ribbon-cutting ceremonies and housewarmings.
She describes how gratitude benefits the “four quadrants of life”: work/creative service, finances and right livelihood, health/well-being, and relationships with colleagues, friends and family.
The book unfolds month-by-month. Each chapter starts with a cross-cultural prayer, followed by stories and information about change and gratitude relevant to that month, concluding with Reflections, Practices, Review and Integration for the Four Quadrants of Life, and asking us to consider how we’ve given and received Blessings, Learnings, Mercies and Protections during the month.
The book is a complete course, akin to studying with Arrien for a year. Following it faithfully will affirm the subtitle, “A Journey That Will Change Your Life”.
- January: Begin Anew. Four concerns of soul making * Hopi reminders for starting anew * Renewed innocence: 5 qualities of children
- February: Attend to the Heart. The four-chambered heart (full, open, strong, clear) * Dalai Lama’s practice of cherishing self and others
- March: Compassionate Service. Five principles of compassionate service * Nabokov’s “Thrill of Gratitude”
- April: Mercy and Atonement. Spirituality of empathy * States of ingratitude * Cultivation of mercy and forgiveness
- May: The Gift of Grace. Grace, gravitas and gratitude * Memorial Day and the Aboriginal Dreamtime * 9 practices of excellence from Japan
- June: The Power of Equanimity. Balance, equanimity and renewal * Japanese practice of Naikan
- July: Embracing Nature. 4 natural qualities for survival * Nature’s 3 laws of governance * 4 soul retrieval places in Nature
- August: Cultivating Peace. Embracing nonviolence: the Quaker queries * Shifting our relationship to conflict: questions from The Talmud * 3 guidelines for fair fighting
- September: Opening to Guidance and Wisdom. 7 outer practices of highly effective people * 7 inner practices for developing character * 5 principles of optimum health
- October: Letting Be and Letting Go. Deeper lessons of living and being human * Longings and belongings * Community and celebration: being a social architect
- November: Grateful Seeing. The breath of thanks practice * Indigenous giveaway practices * Grateful seeing: looking for goodness and what is working
- December: The Mystic Heart. The holidays and the mystic heart * 2 kinds of gratitude * Gift-giving and royal generosity.
If an entire year’s program seems a trifle overwhelming, visit The Letters of Gratitude website, which, in a similar vein to Arrien’s work, explores how to experience gratitude as a way of life.
May all of your reverse mortgage appointments, meetings, processes and people be richly blessed, with learnings of joy and protection for positive outcomes!