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Please and thank you for my thank you!

Updated: Mar 21

Have you ever sent a thank you card in response to a thank you card?

I have!

An ex-boyfriend of mine (when he wasn’t an ex) used to joke at the ridiculousness of my habit of writing cards to people to say thank you for the smallest of gestures.  

It has come to my attention these last few months that I have/had a complete obsession with manners and I really didn’t realise… 

For no apparent reason, I would get myself in a complete tizz if I didn't receive a certain please or thank you in response to a gesture I had made to someone …

The more I inquired into why this bothered me so much the more I understood… 

This need for manners had become me, over come and was shaping who I was - not in the most pleasant of ways.

I totally believed that it was essential that people say please and thank you for everything that is given to them otherwise they are goddam rude. This belief was consuming my thoughts, the tone of my thoughts was influencing how I would speak to others, or not speak to them (i.e. it was taking over my actions) - and the more this happened the more it was becoming a habit.  Which was in-turn expressed fully as me ‘Imogen’ in my character and I wasn’t sure I liked that person.  

I was constantly moving into a seat of judgment.

And when I was expressing thanks for something was I even grateful?

Or was it just this British conditioning in me (also brought up by someone of German descent and a step mother who’s parents were in the military!) and that really I just had an unrelenting penchant for politeness that was OUT OF CONTROL.

It was the second. 

When I started inquiring into this I suddenly had a total AH-HA moment.

My therapist shared with me (and she is first generation Italian heritage living in Britain) that in Italy where her parents grew up the Italians just don’t say please and thank you like we do. Here in the UK her son at nursery was being deprived certain treats as the nursery staff said he never said ‘please' or 'thank you’.  That is because at home they speak Italian and it wasn’t a required constant in their language and social interactions. 


Inquiry really is at the core of spiritual practice.  

It is what suddenly allowed me to move into the freedom of the Ah-ha moment and out of the frustrated, critical, judgemental mind that had become me. 

Inquiry isn’t a quick fix, sometimes you can be inquiring of a trigger for quite a while before the freedom comes.

If you are working on something that is currently becoming you that you are not sure is you then try this Buddhist teaching

You might have heard of it? It is called RAIN.  It was coined by a number of Buddhist teachers about 25 years ago as new mindfulness tool that offers ‘in-the-trenches’ support for working with difficult or intense emotions.

You can access it any time, any place.  

And it goes like this….

R  Recognise what is happening

A  Allow life to be just as it is

I   Investigate inner experience with kindness

N  Non-identifciation 

I will unpick this a little more:

Recognise - see what is happening for you inside - Ask the question - what is happening inside me right now?  Let yourself be curious

Allow - means letting things be. Often we don’t want to feel feelings that we label as ’negative’.

Investigate - this is the inquiry part - the desire you have to know the truth of the situation (rather than just your current viewpoint).  You could ask yourself ‘What most wants my attention’ ‘What am I believing’ ‘What does this feeling want from me?’.  

Unless you bring this stuff into your awareness your beliefs will control you. 

It will directly decondition the habitual thinking and help you to cut through the pain of the moment.  Allowing you to see the truth of what just is.  

Non-identification - this is the result - the truth of present awareness (after the actions of RAI). N is freedom. There is nothing to do with this last part other than realise.

In my situation remembering that people might say please or thank you with their eyes, or a touch or even an action is thanks, a giving back.. it didn’t need to be in their speech.  

Their expression of thanks wasn’t an expression of my worthiness. 

As Mohandas Gandhi said:

‘Your beliefs become your thoughts

Your thoughts become your words

Your words become your actions

Your actions become your habits

Your habits become your character

Your character becomes your destiny.’

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