Image by Morna Crites-Moore via Flickr
As s child I remember singing Johnson Oatman's old hymn "Count your blessings"
When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
This simple children's hymn has always remained with me for the profound spiritual message it contains. Counting blessings is an important practice of metta, or loving-kindness. Counting blessings, giving thanks, frees us from hindrances such as doubt, despondency and discontent. Instead of feeling discouraged, bitter or frustrated because we don't have all the things--wealth, power and prestige--to which we feel entitled, we can experience a thrill of surprise for all the blessings we do receive on a daily basis.
This morning I woke up in a warm bed. Amazing! There was clean water to brush my teeth. Fantastic! And delicious, pure spring water to drink. Incredible! We may take these things for granted; millions will never have them. Counting blessings leads us not only to metta, but also to karuna or compassion, as we think of all the people who have no warm bed, who go to sleep hungry or in fear, who have to carry water for miles, who don't have any clean drinking water. As we count our blessings with genuine surprise and enthusiasm, we naturally think of how to contribute in any way to those who don't get a chance to enjoy life's simple pleasures.
So, this Thanksgiving and every day, remember to count your blessings and feel innocent joy and childlike surprise. And if you want a moment of goosebumps, click the link below for a lovely rendition of Aled Jones 'Count your blessings one by one' by an English choir girl.
Count your blessings while you may,
For we are here but little time to stay;
All around are hearts sincere and true
Lovely things abound just waiting for you;
Count your blessings while you may
The big or small, whichever comes your way,
For then you'll find this world a place of love
If you will count your blessings from above.