Monday, January 24, 2011

Gratitude or Guilt: A Challenging Choice

I was on the treadmill, doing my daily 50 minute jogging exercise. I was in a large Canadian city, Toronto, visiting my sister who was hospitalized and currently bed-ridden. She is unable to walk, even to stand, for fear of collapsing on to the floor, the result of a deterioration of the bone tissue in her spine.
I, by contrast, was speeding along on two sturdy legs. Our age difference is minimal; yet the gap in our physical conditions is virtually unbridgeable. As I jogged, there was no television set to distract me, no music to listen to, no other exerciser to chat with; left to my own devices, I proceeded to "meditate," focusing on my mantra of "modeh" -I thank, in Hebrew. I paid attention to the gift of strong enough legs and body to allow me to put forth this kind of energy on this particular day. I felt badly for my sister, on the verge of entering a state of feeling guilty for my "good" fortune in light of her unfortunate physical disabilities. How can you be happy , I thought, when your sister is in such a state of medical hardship? For a few moments, my energy level began to wane, the result of my guilt's successful intrusion into my exercise experience. My gratefulness meditation was able to help me reorient my thinking to a recognition of gratitude that returned me to a state of continued good feeling and inner desire to complete my exercise routine.
How, I asked myself, would guilt be of any help to my sister? All guilt could accomplish was to interfere with my desire to stay healthy and strong! Why not help my sister from the vantage point of gratitude, one which exhibited health and hope, rather than guilt and hopelessness?
In the final analysis, gratitude acts as an energizing instrument to bring greater optimism and good feeling to those most in need of support and inner strengthening.
I completed my exercise and soon after was at my sister's bedside, feeling fine yet concerned for her well-being, able to be engaged with her in such a way as to brighten her spirits and hopefully make the time spent with her a little less tedious, frightening or sad. Gratitude did in fact translate itself into a response of goodness and care. I was thankful for this gift, as I am sure , was my sister.

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