That For Which I’m Grateful

Photo: Jesslee Cuizon

Having recently finished my first book, The Undefeated Mind (due out November 6th), I find myself now feeling something I didn’t expect: gratitude. I say I didn’t expect it because what I thought I would feel at this point is more a grand sense of accomplishment, a magnified version of what I’ve felt after a vigorous workout at the gym or after making a particularly difficult diagnosis.

And I do feel that sense of accomplishment. But right now far more prominent in my mind are thoughts about what I owe to others. Perhaps it’s because I only just finished writing the “Acknowledgment” section of my book; perhaps it’s because I consider gratitude so important in constructing a resilient self that I spent an entire chapter of the book discussing it. But for whatever reason, on the verge of accomplishing my dream to publish a book, what I’m mostly feeling is a strong desire to repay not just all the people who supported me in writing it, but also all the people who’ve supported me throughout my life.

In Buddhism, repaying debts of gratitude is considered one of the noblest and most important actions we can take. How, then, do we do it? Not just by helping those who helped us, but by helping everyone and anyone we can to become happy.

From the Nichiren Buddhist perspective, this means teaching others about the practice of Buddhism itself so that they can attain enlightenment, a life-condition of absolute happiness. But we can, of course, help others to become happy in any number of other ways too. We can care for them when they’re sick. Listen with empathy when they’re hurt. Pick them up when they fall down. Encourage them when they fail. And write books that help them think about themselves in ways they never have before and that offer them specific advice about how to become stronger. For inner strength, I believe, is the key to establishing a life-condition of indestructible joy.

I write this blog—and wrote my book—because I want to repay the debt of gratitude I owe to others. And if the number of emails I receive on a regular basis is any measure of the influence that my writing has had on at least some of my readers, I’m not doing half bad. Which brings me to what I wanted to write about today: how grateful I am to all of you.

I never imagined when I started writing this blog that I would be able to touch the lives of so many simply by writing down what I happened to be thinking about each week and hitting the “Publish” button on WordPress. But somehow I’ve managed to bring together a community that seems unique among other Internet readerships for its thoughtful and compassionate discourse. I had no idea I’d enjoy participating in the conversations some of my posts have generated as much as I have—nor did I imagine the impact some of my writing would have on some of my readers. Some of the stories that some of them have written to tell me have left me stunned at the depth of suffering that exists in the world. Which, in turn, has enabled me to turn this blog into something I hadn’t at first imagined it could be: a means by which I can fulfill the mission in life I’ve set for myself, to help others become healthier and happier. So I want to express my appreciation to those who, in being affected by what I’ve written, have enabled me to fulfill it. It’s been more than a fair trade: whatever good influence my ideas have had on some of my readers in exchange for being able to feel that my life has had an important purpose.

So thank you.

Next Week: The Human Body From Head To Toe

28 comments to That For Which I’m Grateful

  • Lynn

    Thank YOU, Alex! I’ve drawn a lot of strength and wisdom from your blog posts. I am very grateful.

    Lynn

  • Deborah

    I have been following your blog religiously. I am so grateful for your honest sharing especially practicing the same life philosophy. I have so much to more I would like to say and ask privately. Do you have an email address?

    Congratulations sent with my sincere appreciation for your devotion to your mission of helping others!

    Deborah: You (and anyone) can email me at alickerman @ gmail . com.

    Alex

  • Donna Larson

    Gratitude is what I feel when I read your blog, but what I say most mornings I wake up and how grateful most nights when I go to bed…maybe because I’m still here after all these years. Each Sunday night I turn on my iPad to see what you have written to all of us.

    Thanks, Alex

  • Kathy

    Thank you. 🙂

  • 001mum

    Gratitude is something I never thought about in the past; my life is improving as I practice the good and wonderful that has always been present (but couldn’t see) and wow! it takes a lot of work to switch off negative thoughts.

    So thank you!

  • Ramesh

    I have been reading up your blog for about 3 weeks or so, and have gone through many of your posts from the archives. I have been very fortunate to have come across your thinking and philosophy, and some of the posts just felt like my own thoughts at times. The “brutal” honesty of your thoughts have sometimes made me think on those terms. I just want to express my deepest gratitude about your efforts which have helped me on a philosophical level. Thanks a lot.

  • David Hare

    Hey Alex,
    Monday mornings would not be the same without you! I look forward to every one of your posts and feel very grateful that you make the time and take the trouble to write them for the world. Your words are insightful, candid and thought-provoking. If your book is even half as good, it will sell loads of copies but more importantly help many many people become healthier and happier.

    What a fabulous cause you have made by writing it and I am guessing that you have fought with all sorts of “obstacles and devils” to finish that “journey from Kamakura to Kyoto.” I am on “day 11” with my own manuscript and it is sooooo hard getting over the finish line.

    But I have learned from my Buddhist practice that life IS always a fight between darkness and light; we have no choice on that because there is no someday la-la nirvana-land (except as a figment of our deluded minds.) The only choices we have (I think) are whether to make that fight a painful ordeal or a joyful combat and whether to fight alone or with the support of others. I guess the undefeated mind does the latter, in both cases!

    Gratitude—first recommended to me by a senior Buddhist when I was battling with depression. It worked and is something I often recommend to the clients I coach. Also a big theme in my book which will be called “Thanking The Spoon”—a reference to that guidance about being grateful to the “difficult” people who stir up dirty sediment from the deepest karma of our lives and allow us to lose our illusions and do our human revolution.

    To me it is very significant that nearly all Nichiren’s letters to his disciples began with a Thank You like this one:

    “I have received your gifts of a horseload of salt, a sack of soybeans, a bag of seaweed, and a bamboo container of saké. I have not seen you since you returned home from the province of Kozuke, and I have been wondering how you are. I can hardly find words to say how much I appreciate your sincerity in sending me a letter and the many gifts.”

    All bestest from me and your other readers here in the UK!

    David

    PS. Can you write something on delayed gratification? I did ask you before and am not sure I can wait much longer! 🙂 I would be very grateful!!! Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

    David: Delayed gratification is an excellent idea for a blog post. Glad to take it on. And best of luck with your book. It sounds great.

    Alex

  • Alison

    Hello
    I read and enjoy your blog every week. It is really great. Looking forward to reading your book now. 🙂

  • jody clauson

    Congrats on your accompolishments and thank you for your time. Although I’ve not been able to frequent your blog in the recent past I have found myself wanting to catch up lately. We are somewhat regional neighbors and I respect what you enjoy to publish given my situation in life. Keep following your passion Alex, I am proud of you.

  • Alex,

    THANK YOU for all the words of wisdom and stimulating discourse. Looking forward to your book. BIG congrats on achieving yet another noble goal.
    Giselle M. Massi
    http://www.gisellemassi.com

  • Thank you, Alex!

    I don’t know how I stumbled upon your little community here, but I am very grateful that I did. You facilitated my meeting with another healer (Giselle), and I am ingathering all of the lessons.

    Namaste

  • Ruth

    The gratitude is all ours, Alex. You should be very proud of your accomplishments. Looking forward to reading you book.

  • I am not one of your frequent commenters, but I am always sure to catch your newest post, and have read through your archives. I am not good at expressing my thoughts but the content of your blog posts are always insightful and always appreciated. Your words have definitely had a positive affect on my outlook and for that I am grateful.

  • Jean

    I am so grateful for your sharing your thoughts; you help me to begin my week in a mindful manner, which makes my life and the lives of those I encounter better.

    I am delighted that you will be taking a permanent place on my bookshelf next to few others who show me the way.

    Thank you!

  • louise2525

    Thank you for your weekly words of wisdom, compassion amd guidance. I am grateful to you. I can’t wait to read your book in Novemeber! Namaste:)

  • Teresa

    Like the rest I am a frequent reader of past and present posts and have never submitted a comment. But I did not want to be one of the nine lepers who did not say thanks. So I thank you for your effort to take the time to write and write as honestly as you can every week for which I am very grateful:) You do good.

    Teresa

  • MES

    What more to say? I read, I copy, I forward & discuss each week your words of real life relevant wisdom, and then go back & reread later—it grounds me. Thank you so much for the blog—can’t remember how I found it but am so grateful I did. I am really looking forward to the book come November, I’m sure you will keep us informed closer to the time.

  • Hi Alex,
    You should get your Facebook page up and running. I would love to like it! We have put a link to this blog item on our FB page in the meantime. Your writing is ‘just what the doctor ordered’!

    Eileen: I do have a Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/alickerman.

    Alex

  • thquah

    I always look forward to your blog with your high admiration. Grateful that you have touch my lives. A big Thank You. Looking forward to your book.

  • sylvia

    Thanks, Alex, for your insights. You seem to have a canny ability to write a post which is just what I need every single week! Absolutely amazing. I look forward to the book.

  • Li

    Thank you, Alex, for your blog. Your insightful writings have been a great source of support for me when I was going through some rough patches of soul searching, i.e. after my cancer treatment and now – I’m in the process of relocating to a foreign country. Your writings often offer me a fresh perspective, especially when a lot of material I read online is from the Christian community (I do not subscribe to a religion). Thank you for writing in simplicity and with an admirable honesty.

    I think gratitude is one of the best tools to keep one humble as well, and only when we’re humble are we able to learn from others. Excellent post, look forward to your book.

  • Thank you. Sincerely.

    (Did leave a try before, but it went AWOL)

  • Patricia DiMartino

    I am employing many of the practices of patience, dealing with frustration, and especially gratitude while caring for my elderly mother. Know that you have made a significant and positive impact on your readers’ lives.

  • Sheetal

    Hi Alex,
    I am a regular reader of your blogs but never commented on any of them. As a practicing Buddhist, when I read this blog on gratitude, “something” inside me said that its time I offer gratitude to you for inspiring and motivating so many people around the world. “Value creation”—that’s what your posts do… each and every one of them. Thanks so much.

    Nam Myoho Renge Kyo 🙂

    Sheetal: Thank YOU.

    Alex

  • Andrea

    Very interested in reading your book! Noticed its not available in iBook. Will it be eventually?

    Andrea: Unfortunately, I don’t think so. It’s on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

    Alex

  • Lisa

    I came across your writing nearly two years ago, after losing a friend and looking for comfort.

    I have continued to read your words, and they are so inspiring and uplifting to me.

    When I take the time to read your blog, I also take the time to remember my friend, and be thankful for what I have.

    I am looking forward to reading your book soon.

    Thank you for all your words.

    Lisa: My condolences on your loss. I’m glad my writing has helped.

    Alex

  • Soumya

    Thank you, Alex. Sheetal put it very well. You are a “value-creator” in all of us!

    Soumya: Thank you.

    Alex

  • Jen K

    I found your blogs “Why I Don’t Drink” and “The Power of Delaying Gratification” extremely helpful and inspiring. Thank you for sharing your ideas and insights!

    Jen: Glad you liked them.

    Alex

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