As I sit to breakfast every morning, Theresa asks me “what are you grateful for?” We each list three things, whether superficial or deep, we start our day with gratitude. Gratitude can be a way of life. It is more than saying thank you, though this is part of it. It is really soaking up what we have in our lives that we are thankful for.
Gratitude is feeling the air fill our lungs and being thankful for it. Gratitude is reaching our hand out to open the door and being thankful for the power of movement.
We can bring gratitude into our lives by becoming aware of everything we have. We can begin to notice these things by listing them every morning, but list them mindfully. Let it sink in even if it is as simple as being thankful for the food in front of you. Let that fact sink in before you taste it. Sit with the words.
It is true that life presents challenges, life gives and life takes away. Through these challenges it is still possible to be grateful. We cannot experience the highs of happiness without the lows of pain and sadness. It is part of life and part of what makes us who we are.
But wherever we are in life, whether it be the the troughs or the peaks, we can still find time to be grateful. Even the worst things that happen, Brother David Steindl Rast tells us in Oprah Winfreys podcast turn out to be life giving.
The hardest part of my life to date was the death of my mother. Having left Ireland for Canada (9 years ago now) I missed out on the last 5 years of her life. I saw her in that time but it was painfully short. I still found gratitude in her death. Acceptance and gratitude that I had a week with her at the end. There is light in everything. We just have to find it.
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”
Happy people are grateful. Or are they? Yes, I imagine they are but Brother David counters in his TEDtalk that is grateful people who are happy.
Gratitude is the gateway to happiness. Brother David recommends that we stop, look and go – just like crossing the road.
How often in life do we really stop and look? Ask yourself, when was the last time you stopped to take in your situation and surroundings? If it was recently, I applaud you and encourage you to do it again right now. When we stop and look, we can use this as an opportunity to find something to be grateful for. We can, according to Brother David, use this as an opportunity to take action towards something we can be grateful for.
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”
We can appreciate what we have. Grateful living is so accessible. Today is not just another day. Stop reading for a second and look out the window. You will never, ever see that same cloud formation again. You will never see that sky again. You will never see the light hit the leaves or the concrete outside in that exact pattern ever again. Each moment and each day is something we can be grateful for and it can so easily sneak past us unnoticed.
I have written before about looking up. Too often our eyes are downcast and we cannot see what we really have.
“Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty.”
When we live a life of gratitude, we are rich. We often fear not having enough. This fear can create a longing, a craving, which ultimately leads to violence.
It takes time, effort and practise and it takes a lot more than listing three things every morning which we are grateful, but…..it’s a great place to start.
I still struggle with anger and negativity and may do so for the rest of my life but just like yoga, meditation and exercise, gratitude is a practise and a journey. A journey where we must stay on the path for the rest of our lives.
Each one of us may be just a drop, but together we make an ocean and together we can make an ocean of gratitude. Imagine what that would be like.
Gratitude can be our future. Brother David imagines a future, not with a top down pyramid power structure but as a flat network where we are willing to share. The grateful person will act out of a sense of enough.
“Gratitude for the present moment and the fullness of life now is the true prosperity.”
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