“The slogan ‘Be grateful to everyone’ is about making peace with the aspects of ourselves that we have rejected. Through doing that, we also make peace with the people we dislike. More to the point, being around people we dislike is often a catalyst for making friends with ourselves, thus, ‘Be grateful to everyone.'”
~ Start Where You Are, “Be Grateful to Everyone.”
We often talk about gratitude for the things that make us happy.
That’s the easy part.
What about everything and everyone else?
I think I’m a pretty grateful person, in general. I could make you a list of simple things that make me happy.
The foggy morning I had for my run.
Getting goosebumps because fall weather is finally here.
Holding my tea in my hands and letting the steam wash over me.
A phone call from a friend I miss.
And then larger things, like friends and family, health. You know, the usual “gratitude” list stuff.
This week in “Start Where You Are,” our focus is gratitude. Gratitude is easy for us. But what about the people and things in our life that don’t make us feel good? Maybe that’s where gratitude matters the most.
I am thankful for the things that hurt me the most, because they rip me open and expand my capacity for compassion.
I am thankful for days where I feel like my chest is open—laid bare—because I know, I know that everything that feels like it might just annihilate me is revealing all of my indestructible parts.
I am thankful for tears, and those who bring them out of me. I am thankful because I know that when that raw part of me is touched, that is how I will become fearless.
I am thankful for people that make me angry. When anger comes up, it’s a chance to grow. It’s a chance to see where I am not fully accepting myself, others, the present moment.
I am thankful for my anger. It reminds me to be peaceful. It reminds me that I am the only one who can put that anger out. I am the one that my forgiveness frees.
I am thankful for the days where I feel like I am a failure. I am thankful for the days where it feels like I fuck up the entire day. I am thankful because those are the days that make us real.
Those are the days where we touch that raw, real, tender part inside and begin to open up.
“‘Be grateful to everyone’ is a way of saying that we can learn from any situation, especially if we practice this slogan with awareness. The people and situations in our lives can remind us to catch neurosis as neurosis, to see when we’re in out room under the covers, to see when we’ve pulled the shades, locked the door, and are determined to stay there.”
This whole idea of being grateful to everyone and everything seems counter-intuitive to us at first. We want to just be grateful for the things that feel good, that seem to make us “better.” But what we need to do is shift from the idea of becoming better, or of self-improvement, to becoming real.
I love the story of The Velveteen Rabbit. The heart of the story is, to me, bodhicitta in a nutshell. It isn’t being shiny and new and perfect that makes us “real.” It’s when all of our defenses and pretenses are worn away by life. It’s when we have allowed ourselves to be affected by all of it:
What is REAL?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day… “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand… once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
~ The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams
We are all at our best when we feel beaten and worn because that is when our indestructible parts are revealed. We should all feel grateful for the times and people in our lives that touch our broken-heartedness, because that is how we are able to be open. That is how we are able to let love pour out.
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To catch up on previous weeks:
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