A friend of mine, Rabbi Leibel Benjaminson, described a self-improvement ("mussar") group in which he participated. In order to improve their sense of gratitude, everyone in the group was to select one thing that they do frequently - and then think for 10 minutes about its ramifications.
My friend drank one cup of coffee every morning, and he chose this cup of coffee as his subject. He felt it would be easier to work on the assignment if he wrote his thoughts on paper. To his surprise, the 10 minutes quickly turned into 35. He wrote about how the coffee beans grew in Brazil. Someone planted the trees and took care of them until the coffee reached maturity. Then workers picked the beans from the trees. The beans were roasted and ground, and packed for shipping. He described all the work involved in the shipping industry which allowed the coffee to reach the United States. This alone required hundreds of people. Finally, the coffee arrived at the port in Haifa from where it was taken to his grocery story in Jerusalem.
He wrote about the gas range that boiled the water, and the match he used. (And how much easier it is to use a match rather than have to rub two sticks together!) He wrote about how the gas reached his home and what was necessary to build his stove. He wrote about the water kettle that whistled to let him know that the water had boiled. The milk he added required the work of many people from the time it left the cow until it reached his coffee cup.
At the end of 35 minutes, he saw he had not even begun to write about the actual cup, saucer, or teaspoon nor the table he placed it on, or the chair he sat on!!
Through this exercise, he became aware of so many things he'd been taking for granted. This awareness led him to a most intense spiritual experience. His prayers for the next few weeks were permeated with a deep feeling of gratitude to the Almighty.
Would you like to have a similar experience? Try it today: Pick something that you enjoy doing, and write as much as you can about what there is to appreciate.
(see Gateway to Happiness, p.43)