The Learning of Love & Gratitude


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The hardest arithmetic to master is the one which enables us to count our blessings.” – Eric Hoffer

When it comes to life the critical thing is whether we take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” – G. K. Chesterton

Learning to live with more gratitude, appreciation, and thankfulness, can take a lot of practice and persistence, especially if we were raised in a setting where these things weren’t practiced or modeled for us, and if we’ve have years of practice not being very appreciative, years spent focusing on what’s missing, practicing being demanding and self-centered; years spent focusing on what’s missing, focusing on getting what we think we’re entitled to; years of practice taking things and life and people and health for granted.

It will take a very concerted effort to untrain ourselves in the ways, subtle and not so subtle, of nongratefulness and of not counting our blessings.  It will take time and effort to acquire the “new eyes” that will allow us to see many of the things around us in a more grateful ad appreciative way . . .

“The only true voyage would be not to travel through a hundred different lands with the same pair of eyes, but to see the same land through a hundred different pairs of eyes.” – Marcel Proust

The same goes for the learning of real Love.  Love, too, requires the acquiring of new eyes and a new and more grateful and appreciative way of seeing. 

If we were raised in an environment where love and care were given haphazardly, erratically; if we’ve had years of practice living in such a way where our own practice of loving others has been haphazard and erratic; then it will also require a very concerted and concentrated effort on our part to unlearn those habits (those thoughts and reactions and patterns) that we have that are not very loving and to replace them with habits and ways that are more truly Loving, generous, open, honest, grateful, caring, consistent.

The same goes with doing our best—which is what a life of real Love and gratitude and the learning of these will require, they will require our sincere and best effort. If we have had years of practice cutting corners, being lazy, taking the path of least resistance, giving into our fears, not examining our lives and our actions, then learning to do our best and to willingly take the path of greater resistance will also require a lot of practice and effort. (As well as our willingness to get up and try again should we falter!)

Doing our best, living more truly conscientiously, learning how to live with more real Love and appreciation and perspective, learning to live more mindfully: all of these will take a lot of practice—years of practice—in order for us to become more proficient at doing them.

In the book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell says that in order to be reach the level of mastery or expertise in something, psychologists and researchers have determined that about 10,000 hrs of practice (or apprenticeship) are required. 10,000 hours.

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24 hrs in a day, 365 days a year, that’s just shy of 9,000 hrs. Of course, work, sleep, daily tasks, daily life, et cetera, so assume we have 30 minutes a day that we can practice the learning of the art of appreciation, real Love, doing our best, and all of those things that will make us a truly better human being. 30 minutes a day, 365 days a years; that’s just shy of 2,000 hrs.  At 30 minutes a day, it will take us 50 years to become masters at loving and being more generous and grateful!  (No wonder people join a monastery or convent; we seemingly have to in order to practice without ceasing and get our 10,000 hours in in a realistic amount of years!)  At one hour a day of practice, it will take us approximately 25 years. At two hours a day of sincere and concerted practice and effort, it will take us decade and change.

This is why the choice of what we read is so important! Reading decent books provide a legitimate short cut. Reading M. Scott Peck, Pema Chodron, David Schnarch, James Hollis, Erich Fromm, Kahlil Gibran, Murray Bowen, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Rilke, C. S. Lewis, “A Little Book on Love,” “A Return to Love,” “The Way of Transformation,” “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” et cetera, offer a more potent and concentrated form of practice. As does journaling and writing about what we read and writing our out our thoughts and reactions when we’re rubbing our minds up against those books and those author’s words. Practices/disciplines like reading good books, writing, meditation, therapy (with a decent therapist!), all provide a way of cutting down how many hours we need to practice in order to become more proficient at loving and being more grateful.

And that’s the point—it may take 10,000 hours of practice to become a master or an expert at some discipline or endeavor. But how many hours of practice does it take to become more proficient at it? Surely, less than 10,000 hours. Perhaps 500 hours, perhaps 1,000 hours, perhaps 2,000 hours to really acquire the basic skill sets.

All of this gives a whole new meaning to the phrases “Get busy living or get busy dying” and “Grow or die,” and “There’s no time to lose!” Get busy learning how to be more grateful, Loving, aware, mindful and unlearning how to be lazy, unaware, unappreciative—or get busy learning even better how to gripe, complain, nag, cut corners, et cetera, and waste life and the time you’ve been given.

There’s no neutrality.

An hour spent practicing one thing can’t be spent practicing a contrary thing. Every moment of our lives, whether we want to or not, is being spent practicing something—practicing being more mindful or less mindful and more mindless, reading something of substance or reading fluff, examining our own motives and thoughts and behaviors or mindlessly acting out on them. There’s no neutrality. We’re moving closer to mastery of one or the other—becoming more of a master of living and Loving or more of a master of disaster and chaos; becoming more Loving and grateful and mentally healthy and able to deal with reality and the full catastrophe of living, or better able to live in denial, lie to ourselves, cut corner, hide out from reality and difficult situations and people, living with less perspective, better practiced at giving in to unrealistic fears, and so on.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

The journey of 10,000 hours towards mastery begins with 30 minutes of real honest practice.

And the journey of 500 or 1,000 hours towards becoming more proficient at being a more Loving and grateful and mindful human being starts with 30 minutes of sincere practice.

A tipping point will eventually be reached. Put the time in—and the time required for each of us in order to reach proficiency will vary, for some it may be 250 hours and 6 months, for others 2,000 hours and couple of years—but nevertheless eventually a level of proficiency and real improvement will be reached. Change in a very positive direction will have taken place once we put in the time and don’t quit on the process out of impatience or a lack of discipline.

If you (or I, or anyone) want(s) to learn how to truly love another and become a more loving human being, if you or I want to learn how to be more grateful and appreciative, if we want to learn how to become more mindful and live with more perspective, if we want to learn how to better soothe and cool our emotions and not let them get the better of us, if we want to learn how to approach life more often from what’s best in us and let that take the lead instead of what’s worst and weakest in us, then it will require a lot of practice, it will require acquiring “new eyes” and a new way of thinking and looking at life and interpreting it. 

It will require a long apprenticeship

There is scarcely anything more difficult than to love one another. That it is work, day labor, day labor, God knows there is no other word for it. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.

That is why young people, who are beginners in everything, are not yet capable of love: it is something they must learn. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered around their solitary, anxious, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love.

But learning-time is always a long, secluded time, and loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person (for what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent?).

Yet this is just what young people are so often and so disastrously wrong in doing: they (who by their very nature are impatient) fling themselves at each other when love takes hold of them, they scatter themselves, just as they are, in all their messiness, disorder, bewilderment. And what can happen then? What can life do with this heap of half-broken things that they call their communion and that they would like to call their happiness, if that were possible, and their future? And so each of them loses himself for the sake of the other person, and loses the other, for an unfruitful confusion, out of which nothing more can come; nothing but a bit of disgust, disappointment, and poverty.

How can they, who have already flung themselves together and can no longer tell whose outlines are whose, who thus no longer possess anything of their own, how can they find a way out of themselves, out of the depths of their already buried solitude?

They act out of mutual helplessness. Wherever people act out of a prematurely fused, muddy communion, every action is conventional; even separating would be a conventional step, an impersonal, accidental decision without strength and without fruit.

Whoever looks seriously will find that neither for death, which is very difficult, nor for love, has any clarification, any solution, any hint of a path been perceived.

The claims that the difficult work of love makes upon our development are greater than life, and we, as beginners, are not equal to them.

But nevertheless if we endure and take this great learning-time upon ourselves as a burden and an apprenticeship, instead of losing ourselves in the whole of the easy and frivolous games behind which people have hidden from the most solemn solemnity of their being, then a small advance and a lightening will perhaps be perceptible to those who come long after us.

And that would be much.

(Rilke, abridged from letter #7 ofLetters to a Young Poet“)

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About John

I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
This entry was posted in C.S. Lewis, Conscience, Conscious Love, Courage, Differentiation, Emotional Maturity, Erich Fromm, G. K. Chesterton, Gratitude, Intimacy, Intimate Relationships, James Hollis, Krishnamurti, Love is a Choice, Love is a Commitment, M. Scott Peck, Marianne Williamson, Mature Love, Mental Health, Real Love, Rilke, Schnarch, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Road Less Traveled, Waking Up, What is Love?, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Learning of Love & Gratitude

  1. I really enjoyed your post and like your point about the importance of reading decent books, so true.

    • John says:

      Ah, thank you very much for taking the time to stop by and to read and comment! And, yes, the books . . . something so true and yet so little practiced and understood; but it makes SUCH a difference! Thanks again for reading and commenting 🙂

  2. Pingback: Appreciation | 9.Saints

  3. berna says:

    i discovered your site just now. you must be a kindred spirit. i ‘ve read rilke, fromm, gibran, chodron, krishnamutri, m scott peck, c.s. lewis and marianne williamson. thanks for recommending the others. will get hold of them too.

    • John says:

      Hello Berna,

      I’m glad you discovered my site and that what I’m writing about resonates with you! And I think you will really like the other authors I mentioned. Thank you for reading my post and for taking the time to comment!

      Warmest regards,

      John

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