As I reflect on 2016 and God willing, prepare for 2017, I have tried to pay particular attention the what worked well for me and what served to impede my progress this year.
The most common factor of note was gratitude. A standard definition is “the act of being grateful.”
Some of you may ask, “to whom?” I will make it perfectly clear and state, to God!
Others may pose the question, “for what?” My response would simply be: for the air I breathe with the lungs He has given me, for the fact that I am alive today. It is acknowledges Him watching over me when l am not capable of doing a better job on my own.
He nurtures and sustains and I am a beneficiary. I seek to express gratitude all He has done for me. Shouldn’t we all?
People of different belief systems often thank God for the food before they eat their meals. Many Christians will say a grace or give acknowledgment of a virtue coming from God. I recall some of my Japanese and Kendo brethren saying, “itadakimasu” or “I humbly receive…,” before we would partake of a sumptuous meal together. Muslims utter Bismillah (in God’s name).
At times I question whether people are really sincere and truly thankful but then I pause and remember that it is between them and God. I can only legitimately seek to control my own intentions and actions…
Gratitude is increasingly a topic in social media these days. Its links to happiness and better health are now being examined.
I learned to consider gratitude as an emotion while attending meetings with Sultan Abdulhameed, author of The Quran and The Life of Excellence, years ago. He teaches that “prayer is a comfort”and that “all progress happens through adversity.” While contemplating these thoughts, a phrase I had heard earlier in life came to mind, “Let go, let God…”
These notions enabled me to find peace with the thoughts that I am not in control of everything in my life, but that my circumstances are intimately connected to how I think. Now, I always think positively about all matters, no matter how grim they may seem.
One of my Dominican friends and Kendo brothers has been trying to attain the rank of NanaDan or seventh degree Black Belt for longer than I can remember. Twice a year, he would make a pilgrimage to Japan to challenge for the rank. It takes a lot of determination and resoluteness to maintain this arduous discipline and stay focused in spite of circumstances. The pass rate on this examination has always been extremely low. He was finally successful last month.! Alhamdulillah (All praise is due to God)! I remember the words of the late Nishino sensei,”Never give up!” This is a timely reminder for me. I am also happy when my friends achieve success.
You may ask what does this have to do with being grateful? Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can lead to a greater sense of well-being and reduced depression.
I recently had a personal problem which was driving me to wit’s end. I felt powerless. Reluctantly, I shared my dilemma with some of my friends. Together, we came up with a solution and I was truly humbled by the positive outcome… I am forever grateful for the friends that God had provided for me! Alhamdulillah!
There is a passage in the Quran which states, “If you are grateful, I will give you more (14:7)” I am only now beginning to grasp the meaning of this powerful statement.
I thank God for watching over me.
Thou has been with me throughout my entire life.
Please forgive me for my late acknowledgment.
Please continue to watch over me, my family and my friends…