What I Learned About Gratitude From A Cold And A Little Jumping Spider

My family and I are back east for the Thanksgiving holiday. And with all the preparation and traveling , I haven’t had a chance to finish an article on gratitude. So I dusted off one of my old Intuitive Life Coaching ezine articles from way back in November of 2004 and put a few new touches on it for you. So here it is,

It’s the season of gratitude, yet last week I found myself in a sea of sickness. I don’t know about you, but I find it very difficult to be grateful when I’m sneezing, coughing, achy and generally feeling rotten.

I did my best to remain positive, reminding myself that I was being given a non- negotiable opportunity to relax and recharge. Still I found myself drawn towards the “woe is me” place with thoughts such as, “This is the worst possible time to be sick,” and “I have way too much to do.”

I even caught myself heading into victim mode, thinking, “Ella got me sick,” as if my one year old daughter had somehow conspired to transmit her sick germs to me. If anyone had conspired, it was me, or more accurately, a wise, unconscious aspect of my mind and body forcing me to take some much needed time off.

Still, it took me a full four days of acute sickness before I was able to stop and allow myself to enjoy the break. Even then it was no inner leap of enlightenment that catalyzed the shift. Rather it was a little jumping spider who had made its home in my car.

On that day, with my wife at work, and my daughter determined not to take a nap even though she was rubbing her eyes, yawning and crying, I decided to use the fool-proof nap-induction method known to parents throughout the western world. We went for a drive!

As soon as we got into the car, I noticed that the little jumping spider who had recently taken up residence was sitting on the edge of the steering wheel. He or she seemed quite content to sit and observe as we zoomed down the straight and narrow.

But then we came to a turn and that spider’s world suddenly and literally turned upside down. That little guy or girl held on for dear life as the wheel spun one way. Then on the way back, Spidey must have thought “I’m outta here,” because it dropped down from a thread in search of more stable ground.

While it was a good idea, it didn’t work out so well when the momentum of the turn flung the little guy right back into the steering wheel with a crash. At that point Spidey decided it would be best to hang on and ride out the storm.

When the turbulence ended and we were back on a straight stretch, that spider somehow knew exactly what it needed to do: It headed directly for the center of the steering wheel and sat down smack dab in the middle of the Toyota logo.

When I turned the steering wheel to guide us into the next turn, Spidey just calmly rotated in the opposite direction, easily maintaining his upward-facing orientation.

As I watched Spidey do his thing an image flashed into my mind of one of those amusement park rides where you stand up against a fence as it spins around really fast, so fast that it’s nearly impossible to push, or is it pull, yourself away from the fence.

I realized that’s sort of how I had been feeling in my sickness: dizzily pressed up against a wall, unable to peel myself off. Only unlike at an amusement park, this sickness was an involuntary ride, and it was showing no signs of slowing down.

With Ella soundly asleep now in the back seat, I could pull over and contemplate the lesson in Spidey’s demonstration. I imagined the different experience riding at the outside of that spinning wheel and standing right in the center. And they were very different!

For me, being in the center meant being fully in my sickness, not fighting it, not trying to push myself off of that wall. So all that day and the following day, I acknowledged my gratitude: for the sickness, for Ella, for my wife, for the time off and, of course, for the little jumping spider.

I basked in my sickness, taking naps and baths, sitting for long periods of time doing nothing and just generally loafing. It was wonderful. And the amazing thing is that by the end of that second day I felt great. Certainly not completely better, but my energy level was vibrant and flowing whereas before it had been stagnant and dull.

I believe it was the gratitude that shifted me into the center of that ride. Instead of worrying about all the stuff I was not doing, all the meetings I was missing, and all the money that was not coming in, I was able to stop and accept exactly where I was, and, indeed, acknowledge my gratitude for being there.

Just like that little spider, we get to choose how we experience each moment of our lives. We can enjoy the thrill of riding out at the edge where the momentum of the ride pushes us up against the wall, or we can choose the more stable, yet no less enlivening, ride in the center. Certainly there are times when being on the outer edge is appropriate, and even necessary, but I don’t need to live my life there.

Neither did Spidey.

And neither do you. For many people the holidays can be a whirlwind of too much shopping, cooking, family, parties, eating, traffic, credit cards, and debt.

So this holiday season remember to periodically come back to your center. If you find yourself riding that dizzy edge, stop and take time to acknowledge your gratitude.

No matter how turbulent your life might get, find something to be thankful for and let that gratitude draw you gently back towards your calm, stable center.

I’ve quoted Meister Eckhart before, and I’m sure I’ll do so again, but he stated it so simply and beautifully when he said:

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.”

Thank you!

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    17 Responses to “What I Learned About Gratitude From A Cold And A Little Jumping Spider”

    1. Raymond on November 20th, 2007 4:39 pm

      The little spider understands the concept of being at the eye of the storm.

      Happy Holiday and get well soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker on November 21st, 2007 8:55 am

      Thanks for sharing this story of gratitude. I find myself looking back at my sinus infection that I got when I was in India recently and being grateful for the lessons that I learned from being sick. One is don’t be so stubborn that it takes an illness to slow me down enough to hear the inner voices of myself and my guides. I have been thinking about writing about that experience and its lessons but hadn’t decided about the angle that I wanted to come from with it. Gratitude is the perfect way to write about the experience. Thanks for being a human guide for me today. As Slade Roberson recently told me, sometimes our guides use other people to give us directions and information.

    3. Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker on November 23rd, 2007 12:13 pm

      Edward, I recently posted an article called A Day Of Gratitude and added a link to this article.


    4. Bruce Terrell on November 23rd, 2007 1:41 pm

      Dear Ed,

      I hope you are feeling much better!

      I appreciate your story about being open to learning from that little spider.

      I feel grateful to be living in a universe where what we need is always there in front of us. All we need to do is keep our eyes open to see these gifts!

      A few days ago I had a day where all kinds of things were not going to way I wanted them to go. Like you write, I noticed myself thinking that life was just picking on me.

      Later in the day I was able to get into a more relaxed and receptive state, and I heard the voice of the universe speak in my head saying: “Can you now see how everything that happened today was truly an expression of our kindness?”

      It took me a moment to digest such a radical comment, and yet I got it. I looked at each event of the day, each break down, and was able to find a way that each situation really was “for me” rather than “against me”. I was able to see how the universe was really working quite efficiently in all of that.

      In amazement,


    5. Bruce Terrell on November 23rd, 2007 2:05 pm

      Another thought:

      When something goes wrong, when there is a breakdown in our lives, we always have a choice in the moment as to how we are going to context our experience.

      We can think that we have gotten off course and have “done something wrong”. We can think that life is trying to get us back on track or even punish us to set us straight.

      Or we can hold that Life is kindly just seeking to educate us, enlighten us, show us a new possibility.

      What would our lives be like if we held that life is really just a friendly and compassionate teacher?

      What if the notion of a punishing and controlling God
      is just a mental fantasy which has nothing to do with what is actually so?

    6. Pensacola Real Estate News on November 26th, 2007 9:12 am

      Thank you for the great article. It’s neat to find all kinds of different ways throughout the day to be reminded of why we should be grateful. My problem is forgetting to think about it. I try reminders, but am often caught up in what I’m doing and don’t pay close enough attention. I’m glad I found your site. I look forward to reading many great future articles.
      thanks – Karl

    7. jen_chan, writer MemberSpeed.com on November 27th, 2007 7:27 am

      That’s one very smart spider. In the middle of a crisis, he managed to turn himself around and adopt to the changes happening before him. And it seems that only you can manage to find wisdom in something as small and as unnoticeable as a spider. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing this interesting story with us! I guess I’d better be on the lookout for my spiders as well!

    8. Edward Mills on November 28th, 2007 11:23 am

      Thanks for the great comments everyone!

      I’ve been MIA – visiting family for the holiday! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I hope to get caught up on specific comments by the end of the week.

    9. Albert | UrbanMonk.Net on November 29th, 2007 5:51 am

      Heh, out of all the gratitude posts in the blogosphere for the Thanksgiving session this is one of the best. And Meister Eckhart is one of my favourite mystics out there. Thanks for a great post.

      Modern personal development, entwined with ancient spirituality.

    10. Edward Mills on December 1st, 2007 2:46 pm

      Albert. Welcome to ET! And thanks so much for the kind words. With the amazing quality (and quantity) of gratitude articles this season, that is certainly saying something. And I’m with you in your assessment of Meister Eckhart!

    11. Steve on December 3rd, 2007 1:32 pm

      Nice one Ed. You’ve got me thinking of James Ray who declares a stream of ‘thank-you’s’ every morning as he wakes.


      Stephen Martile
      PS – I love Spidey-Man.

    12. Edward Mills on December 3rd, 2007 4:03 pm

      Steve. No better way to begin the day! Or end it.

    13. marj aka thriver on December 4th, 2007 10:24 am

      I found you through Patricia Singleton. Thanks for this insightful post. It’s not only a post on gratitude, but a post on awareness. Who knew such a tiny creature could provide such a powerful reminder for reminding yourself simply to be. Very nice!

    14. Edward Mills on December 6th, 2007 10:00 am

      Marj. As you’ll find if you continue to read Evolving Times, I can find lessons in the strangest places! ๐Ÿ˜‰ But for some reason, spiders seem to have a lot of lessons for me.

      Here’s another one.

    15. Louise Aspden on January 9th, 2008 3:23 pm

      Wonderful Article. My work this year has brought me to such a great place in being able to “reset” my attitude at any given moment and search for gratitude. What a gift.

      I am so thankful to my teachers, Alisa Garber, Michael Losier, Abraham and the team at The Secret for this gift of consistent gratitude.

      It is the most important piece I wish for my clients in learning to attract more joy.

    16. Edward Mills on January 9th, 2008 5:36 pm

      Louise. What a beautiful lesson. That is the key, as you say, being able to reset our attitude in any given moment.

    17. Of Fear, Black Widow Spiders and Personal Growth | Evolving Times on April 3rd, 2008 8:53 pm

      […] least they have for me. Iรขโ‚ฌโ„ขve already written about the little jumping spider who taught me a lesson about gratitude. And then there was the little guy who sacrificed his beautiful web in order to teach me about […]

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