He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not but rejoices for those which he has.
— Epictetus (c.55-c.135 A.D. approx)
is an active state
Don’t be fooled by Gratitude’s calm demeanor; Gratitude is an active state of being. It is a place inside you from which you honor and appreciate all that is in your life.
This can feel challenging for many of us, and it’s where the “active state” comes in. It certainly feels easier to have gratitude for what we love, but how do we feel grateful for things that hurt? And, why should we?
There’s a philosophy that holds that if something is “true” in your life, that it is there for a reason: there is learning to be gained and personal growth to be attained. I can hear many of you saying, “I’d just a soon not grow, thank you.” Which I understand and that’s what we’re here to do. Witness the lives of every person on this planet. What do humans do? We learn and grow. That’s what we do (or don’t do) everyday.
Whether you agree with the above concept or not, those painful things in our lives are there, and we lose a lot of energy complaining and wishing that they weren’t. When we can look at these painful things and feel gratitude for the learning we gain by their presence, our energy becomes available to find creative solutions for changing, or adapting.
When we focus upon how awful our circumstance is, those thoughts consume our energy and our ability to creative problem solve goes out the window like “the baby with the bath water.”
The simplest way into feeling Gratitude is through the door of what we have that we love, from the most seemingly “insignificant” to the most “monumental”. As suggested in the book The Secret, start each morning with a series of “thank yous”.
“Thank you for my toothbrush. Thank you for the fresh water in my faucet. Thank you for my teeth. Thank you for the roof over my head. Thank you for the towel…”
and everything you have, and encounter, until you arrive at your first destination of the day. When you practice this, you will be amazed at all that you have that is good in your life. (If “thanking” makes you uncomfortable, swop out “grateful”. “I am grateful for the fresh water…” etc.)
Whether something seems too “insignificant” to appreciate will depend entirely upon your life’s circumstances. Fresh water is not a given for many people; think about those who live in areas where hydro-fracking is going on, or in countries where clean water is becoming a rare commodity.
Capitalism tends to support viewing our lives from all that we supposedly “lack”. Through that lens, this makes perfect sense; the economy is driven largely by how we spend our money. If collectively we became filled with gratitude for all that we have, there wouldn’t be any motivation to go out and buy more of what we don’t need.
When you come across… a chance for practicing patience and tolerance, you should treat it with gratitude. It is rare. — Dalai Lama
This is where two vital pieces of information come into play:
- You get to choose how you are going to meet the world of capitalism; from a place of gratitude or from a place of lack.
- How might the drive to have more, be coming from the feeling inside that you don’t have a sense of Self?
A lack of a feeling of Self, or connectedness to Self, is more common than we realize, and many books have been written on this subject. (See R.D. Lang, Rollo May, Carl Jung, Alice Miller and Abraham Maslow for starters.) If the constant craving for “more” in our lives is fueled by an inner core of emptiness, it’s vital to begin the journey home to your Self through some kind of assisted work with a professional or therapist. Your life will be powerfully enriched by working with the right person.
In both of the above two scenarios, you get to choose if you want to have more, or if you actually need more. Living in a perspective of “lack” unfortunately brings more “lack” into your life, often because you don’t believe that you can get (or deserve) anything else…
Gratitude means living in mindful appreciation of what you have as well as what you don’t have.
Having gratitude does not mean you must passively accept your life’s situation and do nothing to change it. Remember, gratitude is an active state, not a passive one. But it is about recognizing that if you’re going to “be” anywhere in the world, you need to start with being where you are. Then you can move from there.
Let’s assume that there is a structure at work of some kind, call it nature, God, the Force, quantum particles/micro-tubules… something we do not fully understand. Because this “order” is present, it indicates that what is actually in your life is as it needs to be because it is what is here. You have learned something from being where you are… maybe only that it’s what you don’t want, which can lead you to what you do want; it may be precisely “right” because it provides the motivation to do something about it.
Gratitude is in accepting that what is true “now” serves a purpose, and that what you will create will serve a purpose as well. This is a life long practice that requires intention and conscious application. Easy? Occasionally… often it can feel difficult and it will transform your life.
Please, share your thoughts on Gratitude in the Discussion Section found on the bottom of the page. How do you practice Gratitude?