Deb -lrgI attended a seminar recently and in lieu of the traditional "let's go around the room and introduce ourselves" routine, the speaker asked that we give our names and share one thing that we are grateful for in our lives. It was such a refreshing way to start the day and we all smiled and nodded as we listened to each other's blessings. It was an immediate bonding experience and so much more enjoyable than the usual introductions. Even better, it started off our day with happy thoughts and gratitude - maybe you should consider it for your next meeting.

Given the times we live in, I think it's so much more important to be aware of the blessings in our lives. Just being able to acknowledge that we have something to be thankful for can make a difference in our attitudes. When we are surrounded by negativity, as we seem to be lately, it's so easy to fall prey to the mood of the majority and join the pity party.

Whenever I think I need to count my blessings, I remind myself of a trip I took a few years ago to Costa Rica. I was amazed at how happy and grateful I found the locals, even though at first site they seemed very poor. They love their country and they love sharing the riches their country has to offer with their visitors. The bounty of riches that were shared with me included the ocean, miles and miles of beaches, the sun, the rain forest, colorful and extraordinary animals, swollen rivers, jagged landscapes, lush greenery, exotic fruits, their very humble hospitality, and their ability to approach life at a profoundly slow pace. I found myself envious.

No one was in a hurry and smiles were abundant.  People took the time to try and understand my poor Spanish and I took the time to listen to their poor English and we got things accomplished and had a good laugh at the same time. Everyone I came in contact with was happy and grateful - it was that simple.  There was reason to be envious.

One of our cab drivers stopped on a bridge so that we could get out and look over the bridge at the crocodiles sunbathing. He wasn't worried about our timetable or his, nor was he being paid to be a guide, he was just so happy to share. Another one stopped before sunset at a very special place where people view the sun dropping into the ocean. He said we couldn't miss it and I'm grateful to him that we didn't. These were priceless experiences for me and even for my hosts, even though they had access to these events daily. They weren't taking anything for granted.

Here in the States, we've had a bit of a setback as we've watched industry tumble and our friends and family members lose jobs or houses or both. As we attempt to move forward as a country and adjust our thinking and spending and the way we live, gratitude can play a significant role in the process because from the gratitude comes real happiness and satisfaction.

One of the things I learned in my seminar is that for every negative action in our lives there is a positive counteraction that we will realize. The "secret" lies in not dwelling in the negative, but opening oneself up to look for the positive counteraction. If you're not looking and not open to it, it will pass you right by.

I have met many people recently who have lost their jobs and decided to return to school. The stories are very similar in that Massage Therapy is something they've always thought about doing but just didn't have the time. So, now that they have been given the time, they have opened themselves up to the positive counteraction, which is the opportunity to use that time to accomplish a goal.

Money plays a big part in the decision to return to school, so one point I'd like to leave you with is that there is a big misconception about our government's financial aid program. Financial aid is offered to every citizen no matter what their income level. There are two forms of aid - one is in the form of grants (don't have to be paid back) and one is in the form of loans (repayment starts six months after graduation). Don't think that because you've made money in the past that you are ineligible. Uncle Sam is still very generous in this department and the cost of tuition for our massage therapy program is about equal to that of a used car, and should prove to be a much better investment. In return for the money you spend (or borrow) you walk away with a skill that can support you for the rest of your life and hopefully give you a profession that brings you happiness and gratitude.

As always, we're here to help when you're ready.