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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Gratitude [publisher's letter]

When November arrives each year, I start thinking about Thanksgiving, and after reading Enough for All (page 29), Zenful Eating (page 30) and Kids with Gratitude (page 38), my thoughts once again turned to the concept of being grateful.

In one of my university psychology courses, we studied Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which involves a five-tier pyramid, with the bottom two tiers covering basic needs, the next two psychological needs, and the top tier self-fulfillment needs.

It’s interesting that I’ve always glossed over the basic needs when I’m contemplating my gratitude, and seem to start with the third tier, which involves belongingness and love needs. For me that’s family, friends, pets—all of whom I’m truly grateful for, and I really try not to take them for granted because I have had so many losses over the years. Taking that one step further, for those I’ve lost I’m grateful to have had them in my life.

From there, I go up the tiers, being grateful for my opportunities, creative talents, ability to learn, achieving university degrees, having my own business, etc., etc., etc. In keeping in line with Maslow’s Hierarchy, these fall in the top two tiers: esteem needs and self-actualization.

But lately, after some discussions with various people, I’ve started pondering the daily items that I really take for granted—the basic needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy. The very bottom tier is physiological needs (food, water, warmth, rest). I think about being able to shower, turn on the lights and heat (or air conditioning!), wash my clothes, brush my teeth, have a grocery store to go to where food is just “there,” clean water (this is a big one), and I know I could hone down my “grateful for” list even further.

Maslow’s next tier is safety needs (security, safety), and that’s huge to me, although I’ve never really brought it to the forefront of my mind, and I think I’ve taken it for granted rather than being grateful for feeling safe and secure in my home, and really, in my life.

Sure, something can happen that might threaten my basic needs, but the real truth is that I’m on pretty solid ground when compared to many people in the world (including right here where we live) who don’t even come close to having these basic needs met, and strive each day to simply have food or water, or find a safe place to stay for the night.

After thinking about this, and sharing it with all of you, I’m going to make a big effort to fine-tune my gratitude to see if I can get to the “basics of the basics.” I want to make sure that I truly understand what it means to live somewhere that I am so easily able to have my basic needs met. That is my "cake," and my "icing" is to be grateful for feelings of accomplishment and achievement in my life.