Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog


“Thank You for Your Effort” (a new practice of gratitude for a new year)

“Thank you for your effort.”

I remember this from one of my meditation teachers, Arinna Weisman.  I haven’t been on a silent meditation retreat for nearly four years, but I still keep to my morning practice of prayer and sitting meditation.  (I set the microwave timer to go off in 45 minutes–not the same as an ancient bell in a meditation hall, but using it does take watching the clock off my mind.)

On retreat, when the bell or gong rings to mark the end of a session, I would bow toward the Buddha statue and give my thanks to the Buddha nature (and his example of liberation), the Dharma (teachings), and the Sangha (community of others in practice).   I still do that while meditating at home at the end, when the timer goes off.  I bow to the little statue and give thanks for the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha, and this practice of meditating. I also give thanks for my effort.

On retreat, after ringing the bell for us to end a sitting, Arinna would say, “Thank you for your effort.”  She didn’t say “great job!” or tell us we had done it just right, or assure us that if it was a meditation filled with distraction or boredom that the next time would be a better one.  How would she know?  That’s not really the purpose of meditation:  getting it right.  The purpose is to practice being present and mindful, practice bringing attention back to one’s present experience, to what’s going on.  The goal of spiritual practice for me is to cultivate peace, peacefulness, freedom, spaciousness, patience, kindness to self and others, and gratitude.  But since these are not quite measurable goals, and I don’t want to evaluate a session in a strict outcome-oriented way, I don’t dwell on them.  I hope my practice works and trust that it does.

It does take effort.  So I remember to give thanks for my effort, my own effort.  I hear Arinna’s voice and I see her face when I do this.

I think this little phrase can be useful in many aspects of life.  When I go for a swim, a walk, or another kind of exercise, I can say to myself, “I give thanks for my effort.”  It doesn’t need to be the best workout ever to do this.

We  send a thank-you note when someone does a favor for us or sends us a gift.  We don’t usually send a bigger card or a longer note depending on the size of the gift or the favor.  We say thanks.

In the new year–or at least in the next few days–I will try recognizing effort, recognizing gifts of all kinds and contributions that others make through their actions, and I will say thanks.  If I’m reflecting on the gifts received while alone, say at the end of a long day, I’ll still say “thank you.”

And when I do something to enhance my own life, health, mindfulness, or serenity, I’ll say, “Thank you.”

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