“Gratefulness is that fullness of life for which we are all thirsting.”
~ David Steindl-Rast
Gratefulness is a topic that often comes up in my QOTD posts, and for good reason, I think.
Even with all the continued practice at being grateful and at taking the time to choose gratefulness over resentment or discontent, it is still something I have to consciously work to cultivate each day; it still does not come very naturally. Yet.
A profound healing session last night helped me realize that in order to move forward in life, I need to grow and invest more awareness into my natural tendency to be grateful. So I’ve decided to really commit myself and my time to being mindful of what I am grateful for each day, several times a day, and to take it one step further and begin to write these things in a ‘gratefulness journal’ so that I can look back at what I’ve written about from time to time.
To me, the most powerful thing about gratefulness is its ability to transform your perspective and your attitude. A seemingly overwhelming and hopeless situation can instantly inspire and enlighten; what once bothered us can become something we enjoy.
It’s easy to be grateful for the good things in life, the things or people we enjoy. It’s not so natural to approach a tough situation or someone who has hurt us with the same open-hearted, unconditional appreciation. And yet, the distinctions we make between what deserves our gratitude and what does not come from places within us that are in conflict in some way.
All of life is deserving of our gratefulness, for even our toughest challenges are opportunities of growth and heightened levels of consciousness and understanding. I can see in myself how a lack of gratitude is rooted in ego, which in Buddhist, Vedic, and other philosophies is one of the self-imposed afflictions which bind us to suffering in life (something I wrote about in depth in my article on the 5 kleshas).
Sometimes we don’t even think about the fact that we are lacking gratitude in our lives. I was experiencing much more pain than normal last night – occasionally, a few times a month, my pain gets so bad it interferes with me even walking or sitting, and even all the pain-relief options available to me have little effect . I don’t like to talk about this with people and I habitually hide the physical impact it has on me, I guess because its uncomfortable for me to be so open and vulnerable. (That said, breaking through that comfort zone, opening up, and talking about what I go through has been one of the most liberating decisions I’ve made and will continue to make when the opportunity presents itself.)
It was pointed out to me in that moment of deep suffering that I could also be grateful for what I was going through, instead of simply suffering through it and waiting for it to pass.
I literally laughed out loud, through the tears, at the profound wisdom of the statement; it was true.
I could be grateful, if I wanted to. I could be grateful for the fact that my body is sending me a message, albeit a painful one. I could be grateful simply to be alive, to be able to feel! I could be grateful that my suffering is a platform from which I have been able to help others.
Did it take away the physical suffering of the moment for me? No. But it did lighten the emotional, mental, and spiritual distress I was feeling, and gave me an opportunity to view things in a new way.
And for that, I was even more grateful.