Monday, November 28, 2011

Make Gratitude Your Main Dish, by Nita Gage

This Thanksgiving, Make Gratitude Your Main Dish

And Life Will Become the Dessert
by Nita Gage inspired by Lee Lipsenthal’s book

Enjoy Every Sandwich:  Living Each Day as Though it Were Your Last

“The daily practice of gratitude shifts your focus onto the parts of life that you appreciate. You still see and manage the difficult areas of your life, but your emotional focus shifts to gratefulness.  When we practice each day, life becomes sweet regardless of our life circumstances.”
–Lee Lipsenthal, MD

            After he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, Dr. Lee Lipsenthal wrote Enjoy Every Sandwich to inspire others to live joyously. His life’s mission was to help people find purpose and peace in their lives, and his profound ability to embrace his mortality and live life fully even while facing death was possible because of his capacity for gratitude. Dr. Lipsenthal knew that gratitude can be developed and strengthened by anyone seeking a more fulfilling and joyful life, and he spent his life teaching gratitude as a practice that leads to mastery and happiness. It was a principle he remained devoted to until he passed away in September of this year, just a month before his book was published.
Dr. Lipsenthal always loved a great meal, but he knew that what really draws us to the table is our love for one another. And because of that, Thanksgiving Day is a perfect time to kick-start a gratitude practice and to make it a tradition every year with your family and loved ones.
On Thanksgiving Day, before starting the meal, invite everyone to close their eyes and, for a few moments, breathe slowly and gently while sending thoughts of love and appreciation from their heart to everyone at the table.  Then have them expand the reach of those thoughts to send love and appreciation to one or more people in their life who aren’t at the table. Ask them to gradually widen the size of that circle of love until they are sending love and appreciation to everyone on the planet. 
For a fun and enlivening experience, go around the table and ask everyone to name something they are grateful for. Encourage people to think of things that aren’t so obvious, something that will be a surprise to the others at the table.  Gratitude is the gravy that makes everything taste better, but Thanksgiving shouldn’t be the only time we think about the many things we’re thankful for in our lives. We should work to make every day a thanksgiving day. When you make gratitude a daily practice, it’s something that gets easier with time until it is second nature. Here are some simple ways to develop your capacity for gratitude:

·      Begin with Gratitude. In Enjoy Every Sandwich, Dr. Lipsenthal wrote, “If I looked for fun, joy and playfulness, I would find fun, joy and playfulness. If I looked for trouble, stress and heartache, that was what I would find.” Adjusting your mind-set changes what you see, so it’s important to begin the day in the right frame of mind. To do so, start your day with this simple exercise: Think about or picture someone you love. Now, close your eyes and slow your breathing by letting the air fill your lungs completely, and gently exhale slower than you inhaled. As you do this, imagine you are sending love and appreciation to that person. Doing this not only fills you with a sense of peace and gratitude, but it also has a positive effect on your heart rate and your ability to think clearly. It’s a feeling that will stay with you the rest of the day.

·      End with Gratitude In Enjoy Every Sandwich, Dr. Lipsenthal wrote, “I found that if each night I wrote down… three things that I was grateful for, each day was filled with more fun and joy.  Fear and anxiety began to fade.”  Every day towards the end of your day, write down three things for which you are grateful. Some days you will find yourself stretching to be grateful for anything, and on those days, it’s most important to do the practice. The list may consist of everything from small things like “I am grateful for my slippers” or “I am grateful for the sandwich I just ate” to gratitude for the fundamentals in life, such as friends, family, health.

·      Practice Expressing Gratitude Tell at least one person a day how much you appreciate them. At first, it may seem artificial. That’s okay; it is a practice. Eventually, you will notice that you always mean it when you say it.

·      Spontaneously Respond to a Sense of Gratitude: Dr. Lipsenthal taught the practice of taking the time to contact with friends and love ones for the explicit purpose of thanking them for being in your life. Something nice someone did for you may spontaneously pop into your head, or something may come to mind during your morning gratitude session. When it does, pick up the phone and call the person, just to say thanks. Let them know what they did that you’re grateful for and why you appreciate it. If it’s too early to call, make a note to call later. Even better is telling them in person. 

·      Practice Gratitude When Life is Giving You Lemons.  You can always make lemonade; the trick is to sweeten the lemonade with appreciation for whatever is happening in your life. Challenges and difficulties, large and small are part of life and can be seen as opportunities to grow, to be creative. Actually acknowledging you are thankful for these times can be a stretch, and even cause some discomfort.  Stretching with and through discomfort is one of the ways we strengthen the capacity for gratitude just as we strengthen muscles by working out.

After a few weeks of practicing these exercises, they will become second nature. As Dr, Lipsenthal explained in Enjoy Every Sandwich, “You are remodeling your brain to be grateful, even optimistic.” And being a grateful person or an optimist increases your health and resiliency.
                        Gratitude is not a feeling, although embodying gratitude produces warm and fuzzy feelings and a sense of fulfillment in your life. It’s larger than this. Developing your capacity for gratitude is the foundation for a happier and healthier life. This Thanksgiving Day, start a gratitude practice so you, too, can enjoy every sandwich and live fully every day.
So begin your gratitude practice by answering: What are you grateful for today?

Nita Gage, PhD was Dr. Lipsenthal's colleague and co-facilitator of workshops around the world for the last fifteen years. Dr. Lee Lipsenthal’s book, Enjoy Every Sandwich: Living Each Day As Though it Were Your Last was published earlier this month. For more information and to read an excerpt, please see

Nita Gage is a Shamanic Minister and Shamanic Breathwork practitioner.  She can be found at:

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Star Wolf's Welcome

My journey in life has been a spiral path of wholeness that continues to move through cycles of change taking me through many symbolic death and rebirth experiences, which I refer to as “shamanic portals of transformation.” I have learned more than I ever thought possible through a process I will share with you in my future writings, called the Shamanic Breathwork™ process, and the five initiations process called S.H.I.P. Once I have made sense of the lessons on my path and discovered the bigger picture, I am ready to pass on and share both my stumblings and my leaps along the way. In my own spiritual quest, I have always appreciated most those who shared their struggles and victories in an authentic way. That will be my humble attempt within the context of this blog.

I believe that we are all indigenous to this earth. I respect all my relations, whether they be human, animal, plant, mineral, visible or invisible ones. We are all related by the great web of life and sent here from the great beyond. Everything we say and do touches all parts of this magnificent web of creation. If I treat myself or anyone else unfairly, we are all affected in some way. Fortunately, the converse is true, as well. I am not perfect. If I am honest and have humility, I can admit that I will make mistakes as I seek to further evolve my conscious awareness. I can also make living amends by striving to change my negative thoughts and behaviors, and live from a more open-hearted connection to others and to myself. I have learned over time that all the changes I seek in the outer world must begin by looking within myself first. I have also learned that it is imperative that I have the courage to be honest with myself and to look at the “shadow” side of my personality. When I have had the courage to truly know myself better, the light and the dark, I have found the inner strength to change my life and shape-shift myself into the light of my true soul’s image.

From time to time I will share different programs and events that are being offered through my non profit organization (Venus Rising Institute for Shamanic Healing Arts) in my blog, as well as photos, videos and teachings, etc. But the main purpose of this blog is to provide an outlet to share the inner musings of my shamanic spirit and journey, and to hear yours as well. I look forward to connecting with all of you who intuitively know that you, too, are a valuable part of the shamanic process of conscious co-creation and evolution on the planet at this time. We each have a role to play and a soul purpose in the drama unfolding in our world today. Together we can create a better place for all beings on earth to live and leave a powerful legacy for those who are yet to come.

I believe we will all be remembered by future generations for the choices we make during this time of huge evolutionary change. In the words of the wonderful poem, “Summer Day,” by Mary Oliver, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

In Love, In Service, In Gratitude,
Star Wolf
Feb 2nd 2009