Hey there, thanks for being here with me right now. It's Thanksgiving in Canada where I live, so in honour of this special day, let's talk about gratitude!
Gratitude isn't just a nice-to-have feeling. Did you know that gratitude improves our happiness, relationships, immunity, sleep quality, and stress resilience? If there was a pill that could do all of this, it would be a best seller! But gratitude is even better than a pill. It is free and accessible to us anytime, anywhere.
In honor of Thanksgiving 2022, I reflected on 22 things I'm grateful for this year. I start with family, then teachers, then friends, then work, then others.
A lot of these things are highly specific to me and may not be relatable to others, but my goal is simply to inspire you to reflect on what you are grateful for. Throughout the process of writing my gratitude down, I felt so blessed and fortunate, so I highly recommend you to try it too.
There are countless things I am thankful to my mom for, but I'll just mention some major things from 2022.
In the past, I used to do garden work and cooking with my mom. This year, I've been busy studying for a university program, so my mom voluntarily took over all the garden work and cooking to give me more time. I feel very blessed to eat fresh garden vegetables every day, cooked with love from my mother.
Over the summer, I was attending a month-long workshop that required me to attend class in China time. My mom not only supported me, but she also attended some of these classes and discussed the content with me, so we bonded over the workshop too. Aside from that, my mom often summarizes what she learns and shares them with me.
In May, I got food poisoning. She took care of me and followed my doctor's instructions to help me recover sooner. That included cupping. Since that incident, I got interested in cupping, and my mom lets me do it for her, and she does it for me. So I am also thankful for that food poisoning incident because I learned cupping as a result, which improved blood circulation and overall health for my mom and myself.
I don't live with my dad, so I don't see him often. But this year, I am thankful to him for being supportive of my desire to apply for a sinology program, delivering groceries to us, always telling us to decide the food and order whatever we want to eat whenever we eat together, and teaching me the importance of planning and being organized in life.
My grandma is in China, so our interactions mostly happen via messaging and the occasional phone call. This year, I am thankful to her for sending lots of stories and videos on being a good person. Whenever we chat, she always assures us that she is healthy and happy, and that as long as I'm happy, she is happy too.
He lives with us and is super easygoing. Whenever we go out to eat, he always lets us choose the restaurant and pick the food. He often buys little gifts like food or household items. One time, I accidentally scratched some paint off the car. I felt really bad about it, but he did not get upset. I am very grateful to have a great grandpa like him.
In May, I met my Chinese philosophy teacher named Mr. Liao, who is well-versed in Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism. When we understand philosophy correctly, then we can apply it properly in our lives. When we apply philosophy properly, we gain happiness, peace of mind, harmonious relationships, productivity, and success. Thanks to his teachings, I've gained a lot in all those aspects.
He hosts a discussion class every week, and I've learned so much from his classes. Before, I was self-studying, and I felt like I was improving at a steady pace. After joining his class, I felt like my rate of improvement accelerated dramatically, and I realized the importance of having a good teacher.
Aside from just being a teacher, he is also a mentor. He helped me with some big life decisions, and I can really feel his care for me and his efforts to give me a bright future.
Also in May, I met a doctor named Dr. Liu, who is adept in both Chinese and Western medicine. She actually lives in the US, but she discovered me through my blog posts on Chinese medicine and then reached out to me. After some email exchanges, we met through video chat.
Before I met her, I self-learned some Chinese Medicine theory and experimented with them in my life. I certainly saw health improvements for my mother and I, but after I received Dr. Liu's guidance, our improvement accelerated drastically, just like my situation with my philosophy learning and Mr. Liao. I feel so blessed to have a wise mentor and a stellar doctor!
Furthermore, Dr. Liu offered to guide me in my Chinese medicine studies. She takes time out of her busy schedule to chat with me one-on-one, and she recommended a textbook that she used to teach. I'm reading the book now, and I report my learnings to her every week. I feel my understanding of Chinese medicine theory is getting better and better.
She is also extremely caring and virtuous. When my blood test results showed that I was deficient in some vitamins, I asked to buy supplements through her to support her clinic. But she told me to buy from another website rather than through her because the price is more experience through her (I think it's because I live in Canada).
We met last year in a summer workshop about sinology. Afterwards, he reached out to me, and we got along very well. He is more senior and experienced than me in philosophy, so he helped me a lot in my studies and practice of philosophy. He is also the person who introduced me to Mr. Liao's class. I am super grateful to him for reaching out to me and then connecting me with a wise teacher.
We also met last year in that summer workshop, and she also took initiative to reach out to me. She wanted to improve her English, so I helped her with that, and she helped me practice my Chinese. Since we are applying for the same sinology program, she helped me with my preparation and got her friends to help too. I also enjoy chatting about philosophy with her.
In June, I had to submit a classical Chinese autobiography for the university program I applied for. I basically had no ability in classical Chinese at the time, so I asked Flora to check over my draft, then Flora passed it along to Xun, who is already at the university I applied for, and he is top-of-his-class for classical Chinese. He not only corrected my horribly-written autobiography and provided lots of explanation, but he patiently answered my follow-up questions.
Later, I asked to chat with him to ask for his opinion of whether or not a foreigner like me should properly learn classical Chinese. He explained to me how if I learned classical Chinese, I would be able to directly understand the classics without a translation, and a translation is like eating food that has been chewed by someone else. I was persuaded, so I asked him how I should learn. To my surprise, he offered to tutor me (he didn't use the word "teach" because he is very humble) once a week.
At this point, I already experienced the value of having a great teacher and doctor, so I knew how lucky I was to receive this offer from a classical Chinese pro. I took him up on his offer, and I've learned so much over just a few months. If I were self-learning, I would definitely struggle a lot and maybe even give up. But Xun made learning classical Chinese feel do-able and interesting for me, and my rate of improvement is way faster than I expected.
He is also well-versed in Chinese philosophy, and since all the ancient classics are recorded in classical Chinese, he will often talk about Chinese philosophy in our classes. Hence, I get to learn both classical Chinese and philosophy from him; two birds one stone!
10: Venerable Jing Kong
This summer, Venerable Jing Kong passed away. I reflected on how if it wasn't for Venerable Jing Kong, my mother would not have learned Buddhism, and she would not have introduced me to Chinese philosophy. When I first started learning Buddhism, I watched Venerable Jing Kong's lectures, and helped me understand that Buddhism is not superstition, but rather an education on being a good person.
The sinology program I applied for also exists thanks to Venerable Jing Kong, and I made so much progress in my self-cultivation throughout the process of preparing and applying for this program. A lot of the people I mentioned above are also due to the sinology program.
11: Sinology Workshop
I am super thankful for the one-month summer workshop that I attended twice. The workshop is required for students who want to study in the sinology program I mentioned earlier, and it focuses on training our virtues and moral character.
I actually attended this workshop last year, but I didn’t pass. However, I learned so much about how to be a better and more effective person from that workshop, and I applied the teachings over the past year.
This summer, I attended again. The teachings are useful for my entire life, so it was great to get a refresher. I also passed this time, but even if I didn't pass, I would be happy to come back again and again.
This past year, one of my university classmates named Julia heard that I was interested in Chinese philosophy, so she reached out to me. I had nobody to talk in English with about Chinese philosophy, so I was delighted to chat with Julia. She is still new to Chinese philosophy, so she asks lots of great questions that I had in the past, and her questions really helped me solidify my ability to explain and apply wisdom to solve real problems for real people other than myself.
Margaret is also a university classmate, and she was the person who recommended Julia to me. After Julia and I got on really well, I thanked Margaret, and we set up a catch-up call. I then found out that we were both reading The Daily Stoic this year, so I asked if she wanted to be Stoicism buddies. She agreed, and now we chat once a month about our learnings and Stoicism practice for that month. Having a buddy has made this book much more memorable and enjoyable!
We've been good friends since first-year of university. He and I both took lots of writing courses in university, but he actually became a professional writer, while I just write for my blog. He is always improving his craft, and when he was reading books on writing, he shared his notes with me.
He is also a foody and photographer, so he gets invited by lots of restaurants to take photos for them. Whenever we meet up, he always takes me to great restaurants. This past year, I got to try Jamaican, Mediterranean, and French-Asian fusion restaurants thanks to him.
I also asked him if he has an extra computer monitor by chance, and he gifted me his computer monitor!
I work as a high school teacher, and I feel very blessed to have such a supportive and accommodating principal. She is always looking to make the teacher's lives easier, and she maintains great communication with all of us. Since I wanted more time to study for the sinology program that I applied for, I asked to only teach one class, and the principal supported me. She also helped me with some background work for the online courses I teach.
I am blessed to teach some great courses that I am passionate about, such as Grade 12 Business Leadership and Grade 10 Healthcare. Without my students, I would not have such opportunities. Moreover, every time I teach these courses, I get a review of the whole course. Students also bring their unique questions and challenges, which help me improve even more.
17: Mr. Wei
Over the past year, I attended weekly classes hosted by the Canada DiZiGui Organization. The main one was the class on the book Liao Fan's Four Lessons hosted by Mr. Wei. This was the first recurring class I attended with my mother on a book related to Chinese philosophy, so it holds a special place in our hearts. We bonded a lot over it and learned lots from Mr. Wei.
Later, Canada DiZiGui Organization invited a distinguished guest named Venereable Cheng De to Toronto, and Mr. Wei made special efforts to ensure I could attend the events and meet this guest. He also wrote a generous recommendation letter for my university program application.
I used to be a perfectionist with a fragile ego who was very afraid of making mistakes. Hence, I disliked challenges, obstacles, and difficulties. I wished life would just be smooth sailing all the time. This year, I'm starting to appreciate that challenges are what allow us to grow and improve, and growth and improvement give us long-lasting happiness.
Rather than hoping for a life of no obstacles, I should hope for myself to be someone who can handle any obstacle. This was a big mental shift for me, and while I'm still working on it, it's had a great positive impact so far.
19: Philosophy Books
This year, I've been learning and applying philosophy diligently in my life, specifically Buddhism, Stoicism, Confucianism, and Daoism. In my mind, all philosophies teach two things: wisdom and love. When we have wisdom, we think effectively. When we think effectively, we make good decisions. When we make good decisions, we gain happiness, harmonious relationships, and success. Wisdom should be channeled into love so that we help the people around us to be happy and make the world a better place.
Specifically this year, I learned The Great Learning and The Record on Education. The Great Learning gave me a deeper understanding of how cultivating my own moral excellence relates to world peace, while The Record on Education taught me great principles and tips for being a better teacher. I'm also in the process of learning The Daily Stoic.
Before, my mother and I ate mostly carbs (e.g., rice, wheat, root vegetables). Dr. Liu explained that eating only carbs makes it easy for us to get hungry, tired, and sleepy. She recommended we add more protein and fibre into our diet. However, we eat vegan, and I noticed that many vegan mock meats have a lot of artificial flavoring and preservatives, which aren't very healthy. We also ate little variety in our diet, so Dr. Liu recommended us to eat the five colors in Chinese medicine every day (the five colors are green, red, yellow, white, and black).
Later, we found out dried beans are high in protein and fibre, and it was easy and cheap to buy beans in all five colors! We tried soaking and cooking beans in a slow cooker overnight. They saved us cooking time, tasted good, and helped us feel satiated much longer. I didn't feel the need to eat a snack in between breakfast and lunch, and I didn't get so sleepy after lunch. Now, we eat beans on a regular basis, and I am super thankful for them!
21: My Local Vegan Restaurants
I have two really good vegan restaurants located near my home. Whenever I go out with my friends, I don't want them to feel deprived of delicious meat, but I also eat vegan, so these two restaurants are our go-to places. They've also told me that the food there is just as good, if not better, than real meat.
22: You! (Blog Readers)
I am very grateful to all of you readers out there. Writing these blog articles are a way for me to clarify my thoughts and give me accountability to apply what I learn in my own life. Since I know there are people reading these articles, I work even harder to improve myself. I simply hope all of my readers can leave my blog feeling a little more happy, positive, and inspired.
As the saying goes,
"It's not happiness that brings us gratitude. It's gratitude that brings us happiness."
Gratitude is like a muscle that gets stronger the more we practice it. It is beneficial for both our mental and physical health, and it can give us happiness anytime, anywhere. What are some things you are grateful for this year? Try writing them out with specific details, and I'm sure you will feel more blessed and happy afterwards!
Weekly Wisdom Newsletter #206