Power of Gratitude

This article was written by Rev. Jiro James Morishita, head minister of Brotherhood Church in Los Angeles and general manager of Los Angeles Tenri Dojo.

I teach judo. Judo is a sport in which the objective is to throw your practice partner to the mat using one of several throwing techniques. The one being thrown can land safely and without injury if the fall is broken correctly. This can be done with a combination of slapping the mat with the arm and landing in a manner that absorbs the shock of the fall. However, to a beginner, it is never fun to get thrown, especially since the art of falling has yet to be mastered. Even to a seasoned judo practitioner, it is better to throw than to be thrown. Many, especially young children, tend to lose interest at the initial stages of their judo training for this reason. The challenge to me as a teacher is to maintain the interest of the student, whose body may be in pain and who may be ready to quit. Fortunately, a friend informed me of the following.

In the course of working on a research paper, she found that the shock and impact of the body being thrown onto the mat releases good endorphins into the muscles, the bones, and the skin tissues, which helps to strengthen them. The impact of the throw, though it may seem to be adversely affecting the body, is in fact a good thing and something that a judoist should look forward to. Soon after getting this information, I began to preach the virtues of gratitude at the dojo. Yes, gratitude.

In the teachings of Tenrikyo, we are taught that any and everything of this universe is the body of God and that we are given life to enjoy life through mutual help and respect. This is the very purpose of our existence, and all things are provided for such joyous living, including the body. Nothing in this world should be a source of our complaint or blame. Quite the opposite, everything should be a source of our gratitude and joy. Imagine awaking each morning with gratitude for the warmth that permeates throughout your body, for the food you had yesterday and which is now nurturing you today, and for the air that the lungs take in, contributing to the energy that sustains life. Gratitude should overwhelm you.

Going back to the dojo, I point out to the students that being thrown helps to strengthen the body. "Your partner, after having thrown you to the mat, should be a source of gratitude and joy," I tell them. "You are getting stronger." This seems to help and encourage them to persevere and continue to train and become better. I am grateful for this and all things. I feel stronger for this. How about you?