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December 9, 2015

Peeling the Layers of Gratitude.

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“If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” ~ Meister Eckhart

As I live my life and experience things I hadn’t planned on or even imagined happening in my life, I am revisiting gratitude.

It’s a popular subject, even I’ve written about it previously. So it might seem that there is nothing left to say. But, as with all things, we can always go deeper, there are always more layers to uncover.

I’m not interested in preaching, that’s not why I am writing this article. Because you either choose to become grateful and appreciate the people and things in your life or you don’t. It’s your path and I accept your choice.

This is about sharing my journey. Maybe it resonates with you.

Lately, as the layers are coming off the proverbial onion, I am sometimes simply overwhelmed with gratitude. Bowled over, breathless, moved to the core of my soul.

As I look at my child or the man I love, I literally can feel ecstatic with gratitude for their presence in my life, for the gift of seeing their faces. Things I absolutely took for granted as part of my life.

Sharing a cup of coffee with someone I love can be so beautiful that it takes my breath away. Smelling freshly cut grass, tasting that first bite of chocolate or sip of apple-juice (or wine).

Recognizing that the wheels of my car are safely taking me to my destination. Watching birds sing to each other. Getting a phone call or text from a friend, and so on.

Sometimes in quiet moments, I become aware of the gift of my body—the way it works, how many years we have traveled this earth together, the wide range of feelings I experience through it, the beauty my eyes allow me to see, the foods my mouth has tasted, the many tasks my hands perform—it’s nothing less than a miracle. I now appreciate this body, after years of bestowing upon it regular, steady doses of belittling, criticizing, hostility, hatred and all manner of ugliness.

Those intense feelings of thankfulness lately have caused me to re-evaluate gratitude.

This is what I’ve noticed:

I’m more capable at this time in my life to appreciate things I don’t even like. I can see the beauty where before it was all ugliness or annoying. I can take more things in stride (that’s never been an easy thing in my life) and know it’ll be okay.

And I’ve realized that even if you haven’t sought gratitude, life will sometimes bring you to it, because you begin to recognize that things could be worse or you could lose what you treasure.

So this is what I have come to understand: as we age, we either begin to appreciate and feel thankful or we become bitter.

We can make that choice!

All of us need constant reminders to keep us on track. We are like little children who have to be told over and over again to close the door or brush our teeth. Only after many years of being told and doing it, does it become a natural behavior for us.

As an adult it sometimes seems to take me forever to remember something that I sincerely want to implement in my life. Not to mention actually doing it.

So I need a reminder, we all need a reminder—on a regular basis!

I make it a practice first thing in the morning to remind myself to be thankful. I try to read something related to this aspiration every day.

But I also want to be kind to myself! I don’t force myself to feel appreciative for something that momentarily (or permanently) leaves me feeling frustrated or annoyed. Instead, I notice the one thing or person that I can be grateful for and focus on that.

I’ve stopped beating myself up! I have been good at being hard on myself in varying degrees. I have lots of practice at it; it’s become a habit that I had to break. The first commandment in gratitude law is: Give thanks for your unique self!  

This is also one of the 10 Commandments: Love your neighbor, as yourself! Giving thanks for my life, my abilities and what I have created, is loving myself. Being gentle with myself and appreciating the little (sometimes big) steps I take in my journey on this planet, are ways to validate my efforts and good intentions.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
~ A.A. Milne

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Relephant Favorite:

Metta: The Practice of Loving Kindness.

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Author: Christina de Valencia

Editor: Travis May

Image: Flickr/Regan76

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Christina de Valencia