January 18, 2011

Grabbing Hold of Gratitude. ~ Sandy Clarke

Desire is like drinking salt water to quench your thirst

“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.” ~ Buddha

When you think about it, a lot of us really do spend so much of our time complaining about what we don’t have, what we should have but haven’t yet received, or wishing we could win the lottery or go on an expensive holiday and so on. Rarely do we stop and appreciate exactly what we have, here and now.

In searching for happiness, we have this strange habit of looking elsewhere to find it. How many times have we heard something like: “Oh, if only I were a millionaire – I would be so happy!”


Ironically, the things we believe will make us truly happy rarely do. If having a lot of money was the cause of true happiness, surely every rich person would be without difficulty or sadness? Of course, this isn’t the case. In fact, in a lot of cases, the opposite is true. We often read stories of people who have won fortunes or have found overnight fame only to regret their “luck” and wish they could hand it all back and return to their simpler lives. Why? Because their previous happiness came from what they already had – they simply had never realised it before until their lifestyle had changed and when it did, they found themselves filled with gratitude and a yearning for their former lifestyle.

We have become so self-absorbed in our modern-day material world that we are too busy looking to the horizon in search for more, more, more, instead of being thankful for the things we have around and within us. Studies in America and in Britain have suggested that people during the years of the Great Depression were actually more content than the people of today. No doubt this is due to the gratitude these people felt for everything they had. They knew that gaining in material wealth was unlikely, and so it was pointless to pursue what couldn’t be obtained. They were content. Nowadays, we are so steeped in material wealth that the superficial has become King and we have forgotten the things that are really most important to us. We have lost our gratitude for life and replaced it with an insatiable and ungrateful greed and all the while, we are left wondering why we feel empty and unhappy a lot of the time, even though we have our plasma screen TVs hanging on the wall and our nice cars parked outside our nice homes.

Of course, there is nothing wrong about having nice things. You’re not a bad person if you earn a high salary and enjoy success. However, it’s when we constantly look to obtain more that we begin to feel discontent and unhappy and – in some cases – view ourselves as failures when we don’t “succeed”. Desire is like drinking salt water to quench your thirst: the more you have, the more you want – it never ends!

Material gain isn’t the only thing we desire. Sometimes we can be quite selfish in our relationships and think only of our needs and wish only for our expectations to be fulfilled without thinking of the other person’s happiness as being just as important as our own. When our needs aren’t met, we start to feel dissatisfied, irritated and unhappy and perhaps we start to look elsewhere…and the pattern, more often than not, repeats over and over.

If we can take the time to think about what we value the most and whether or not what we value is actually making us happy, then we can give ourselves a better indication of how we can change our perceptions and our expectations in order that we can feel truly happy and content. This comes through grabbing hold of gratitude for everything we already have, without giving a thought to the things we want but don’t yet have – and may never have.

When we start slow down and think of all the good things in our lives, we immediately feel a sense of gratitude and contentment. In practical terms, we can simply sit down and draw up a list of the things we truly appreciate and that can be anything from the loved ones in our lives to the fact that we can see or smell. If we draw our attention to the simplest of things we possess, we usually find these are the very things that help to bring us the greatest joys we experience. All it takes is for us to be a little more mindful of what we have. There is no use thinking about things we don’t have. For every moment we spend dreaming of winning those millions, that’s every moment we’re living life in a far off fantasy land instead of being present, living in the moment.

By adding up all the things we have, in no time at all we start to see a tremendous list of good fortune that we begin to value and cherish. Sometimes, when we really think of what we have, we notice things we failed to notice before and perhaps we come to realize just how much we have been taking for granted all the while. With the thought that everything we have is easily lost – if we can realize this instead of merely looking upon it as a wise thought of ancient sages – we can really be grateful for all that we have and as a result, we start to come away from our insatiable desire for “more” and head towards lasting happiness and contentment.

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