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On Gratitude and Giving Back

November 3, 2014

Conventional wisdom has always taught that when we help others, some of the good we do flows back to us. Within the east Indian tradition, karma means “act” or “deed” and there is the belief that there is a consequence of natural acts that governs all life. The Vedas teach, if one sows goodness, one will reap goodness and if one sows evil, one will reap evil. This belief, also prevalent in Christian texts, is captured in a phrase in the Prayer of St. Francis – it is in giving that we receive.

Science has confirmed this ancient wisdom. In the book by Alan Luks and Peggy Payne the Healing Power of Doing Good, the “helper’s high” is described. After volunteering or giving back even in fairly modest ways, people feel stronger, more energetic and motivated. Tom Rath, our speaker in the Wellbeing Lecture Series this month, notes in his book Wellbeing that when they surveyed more than 23,000 people on this topic, nearly 9 in 10 reported getting an emotional boost from doing kind things for other people. He then describes research that has discovered that there is a region in the brain that lights up when money is received but lights up even more when money is donated!

There is also power in collective action. Across the nation, many organizations participate in the “Give to the Max” day. Harnessing the power of technology and social media, people are encouraged to “click, contribute and change your world”. Thousands of schools and non-profit organizations, including the Center for Spirituality & Healing, have benefitted from this annual appeal that invites people to invest in what they believe in. It is also clear from the success of this strategy that people also enjoy being part of a movement that makes a difference in people’s lives and the communities in which they live.

After a recent talk that I gave on wellbeing and gratitude, a friend of the Center sent me a gratitude bracelet, a simple band with 4 stones. The stones serve as a tangible reminder to pause and call to mind all that I am grateful for. A daily gratitude practice, whether prompted by a bracelet, gratitude stone, or by the power of your intention, is life changing. John Milton wrote that gratitude allows us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.

In this season of Thanksgiving, I am mindful of so much that I am grateful for and that includes the friends of the Center for Spirituality & Healing along with the faculty and staff who are so deeply committed to advancing the health and wellbeing of people, families, organizations, communities – and indeed, the planet.



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