• Shihan Kendall

Black Belt Gratitude

“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.” -William Faulkner

First of all, let me pass on our sincere wishes from the entire Dojo team for a wonderful Thanksgiving, not just this weekend, but beyond. May your plans and meals and family interactions all be everything you hoped, but may you also achieve the gratitude you all deserve.

Gratitude isn’t something that comes to us but something we achieve through the same determination we achieve goals in the Dojo our elsewhere in our lives. Like the ranks we progress through in our martial arts training, there are various degrees of Gratitude, but I think they can all be reduced to three basic levels. And each level needs each other for Gratitude to be fully realized.

The first level is expression of Gratitude. This is the “thank you” or variations thereof that we (hopefully) share with each other dozens of times a day for kindnesses big and small. These expressions are important – I place a huge premium on manners – but they also are often reflexive words drilled into us by our parents from when we were wee little people, and reinforced by years and years of daily use. That’s not a bad thing, and it doesn’t rob a sincere “thank you” of its meaning. But let’s be honest: how many times a week do we say “thank you” in the course of an interaction while our mind is on a dozen other things?

The next level of Gratitude, then, is true mindfulness of all the things we should be grateful for. It’s that mindfulness that gives expression its meaning. It’s also mindfulness of the things we have to be grateful for that leads us to honest-to-God happiness. When our minds are full of appreciation for the wonderful things in our homes and our communities and our world, there is very little room for there for the things that stress us out. And less stress means better health, more positive interactions with others, and a clearer and smoother path to our personal and professional goals. And guess what that leads to? That’s right: more in our lives for which to be Grateful. Cool how this works, right?

But let’s not stop there. Let’s challenge ourselves to reach that third level of Gratitude—the Black Belt level, if you will. This is Gratitude In Action. It’s thankfulness gone beyond the verbal acknowledgement and into the way we live our lives. It’s demonstrating Gratitude for family by finding new ways to remind them that you’re thinking of them. It’s honoring Gratitude for our health by working to stay healthy. It’s spreading Gratitude for the material things we have by sharing, and perpetuating Gratitude for the goals we’ve achieved in life by offering encouragement and mentoring to others who are pursuing their own.

And that’s the real beauty of Gratitude: it’s a self-renewing resource. Dedicate yourself this Thanksgiving to generating Gratitude in yourself through mindfulness, expression and action. Then seat this special time next year how many more blessings there are to count.


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