A third practice of honorable closure to the year is gratitude. Gratitude comes from the Latin "gratus" and means to be thankful. Gratitude acknowledges the gifts of abundance and generosity that we have received. We meet these gifts with open-heartedness and receptivity, the practices of respect that honor what we have been given. Cicero, the Roman philosopher and orator, confirms this view. "Nothing is more honorable," he writes, "than a grateful heart."
Giving thanks and being appreciative is recognition that we are upholding meaning in our lives. All that we value, including work and creative projects, intimate relationships, health and well-being, and the chance to follow a path that has heart and meaning, are honored when we are thankful.
Michael McCullough and Robert Emmons studied gratitude and suggest that there are tangible benefits, including "higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy." Other benefits reported include reduced levels of stress and depression, and more effectiveness in achieving personal goals. To Visionmakers this is an important signal: the Fire of Purpose is being fuelled by gratitude for the journey to meaning. Ellie Weisel, Nobel laureate and holocaust survivor suggests:
"When a person doesn't have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost always be defined by his or her attitude towards gratitude."
As we reflect on the year that is closing, what are we grateful for that has deepened our experience of being alive?
• What has surprised and delighted me this year?
• Who or what was deeply moving?
• What was accomplished that heightened my sense of purpose?
• What relationships grew or changed for the better?
• Who helped me this year?
• Who inspired me?
• What did I see in the world around me that was uplifting?
• What encounters did I have with nature that were healing or energizing?
• What challenges emerged that I faced that I am better for as a result of the experience?
• What people entered my life who made a difference?
• Who passed away that I was honored to have known and loved?
• What strangers crossed my path who were important teachers?
• Who were the teachers of my heart?
This is the final post of the year. I am grateful to all of you who have visited Visions. I have been deeply moved by how many of you have made the journey to this site-in the thousands. You have come from a wide geography, Visionmakers from all parts of the United States and Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, South America, and the Caribbean. I hope that these posts have supported your path of heart and meaning.
In the New Year, I will be providing some thoughts about beginning well. The old proverb, "in the beginning is everything" is true. Visionmakers recognize that to initiate something is an act of power. Who would enter a fresh container of time like a New Year unconsciously, or with a cavalier attitude?
Happy New Year.
© Patrick O’Neill 2008. All rights reserved.