November 13th: Gratitude
Gratitude is very much like a muscle- the more you engage it, the stronger it becomes. And when you don’t use it, it weakens. I’m not talking about those out-of-the-blue moments that occur and fill us with gratitude for a specific thing or person or kind gesture, although those can serve as a catalyst to get the ball rolling.
Nope, I’m talking about cultivating gratitude for the mundane, everyday things we take for granted. The miracle of waking up alive and whole. The breath in our lungs, the warm cocoon of our beds. That first cup of coffee, the chaos of a morning in a house with children.
When I sit down every morning to pray and meditate, my prayer always begins with gratitude- thank you for another day. Thank you for my health, my children and their health. Thank you for this love in my heart and this beautiful life I get to have.
And sometimes, when I say these words, I am overcome. Sometimes I can’t help giving thanks while tears roll down my face because when I say that I am grateful, I mean it. I am not just grateful for where I am now, but I’m grateful for where I was and what it took to get me here, because it makes today that much sweeter. I am grateful for where I am because I know where I was headed. I am distinctly aware of how different my life could have been.
When I choose to live in gratitude, I am choosing to see what is right about my life rather than what is wrong. What is abundant rather than what is lacking. How far I have come instead of how much I still need to do. It’s really as simple as that. In this life, our perception of reality IS our reality. The way we speak and think and catalogue our experiences colors everything. So, when I say that cultivating a grateful perspective changes everything, I mean it.
Problems still exist. People still act up. There are good days and not so good days, and we certainly can’t control many things that go on. But we can control the way we view all those things. We can dig a little deeper, see the silver linings, recognize and find empathy for the pain in the bad behavior of others. We are free to enjoy the good days and find humor or lessons in the bad. We can surrender to the things over which we have no control and let go rather than struggle. We get to choose what is burden or blessing and find something beautiful even when our hearts break. That’s pretty amazing.
I could go on and on about gratitude, I really could, but the bottom line is this- without it, without the ability to appreciate the things you have now, you are setting yourself up for more of the same old thing. People become deeply attached to their unhappiness and dissatisfaction. They shoot down any suggestions or solutions, and when they do get what they want, it is never enough. There is always something wrong, something lacking, something painful. We ALL know someone, or several someone’s, like this.
The thing is…that’s life. There are people who have terminal illnesses or chronic pain or have suffered devastating losses who choose to have gratitude for what they do have and focus on the life before them. And there are able-bodied, healthy, perfectly fine people who cannot find one thing to be happy about and seem content with their misery. Well, let them have their pain. What a sad waste of time.
Today, I hope you can remember that you are in charge of your thoughts, your perspective, and your attitude. I hope you can hear yourself think and correct your thoughts when they start acting up. I hope you can feel overwhelmed with gratitude today, because life is really that perfect and gorgeous and good. I hope you can see it, and if you can’t…keep trying. You’ll get there.