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February 1, 2016

The Mindful Life Illustrated: Gratitude is More than Being Grateful for Things.

11 - On Gratitude

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Gratitude is the language of our souls singing out to the rest of the universe.

It seems obvious, and we assume that we are grateful. If asked, I would surely say that I am grateful, without question.

But practising gratitude is not about answering the question of whether we are grateful for all the things around us.

The act of being grateful is something more.

It is taking a second to stop and observe the world around us—seeing it as it is, and practising gratitude for what we see, even when it isn’t what we think we’d like to see. That act ripples into the rest of our daily lives and into the lives of all living creatures around us.

The act of being grateful is an action and a reaction all in one. It is giving and getting at once.

Gratitude allows us to be present, aware and deeply thankful for the things in our lives that make it rich and wonderful, but often go under-appreciated, as well as the difficult things—the painful things.

If we can learn to see the world through a gratitude filter then our experience of life can shift dramatically. We can learn how to see any situation as a neutral canvas that we either chose to view with love and respect or with fear and distrust.

The canvas is the same but our perception of it changes the effect it has on us.

There can be times when feeling grateful seems impossible. When the world seems so stacked against us that the light of awareness is completely overshadowed by the wall of sadness or hatred within us.

Even at the moments when we think we have nothing to be grateful for, we can still look around and feel gratitude. We can be thankful for breath, for clean air to fill our lungs. We can be thankful for our clothes and the warmth and security they provide.

I find the idea of being in the present but grateful for the future quite beautiful.

We can be thankful for the future—for how time will heal our current wounds and is filled with the possibility of change and growth. We can be thankful for our ability to feel this pain in the present, because it means we are alive.

And time always moves things along and the pain we are feeling now will slowly subside and the future will present new chances, fresh perspectives. So we might as well really feel the pain—give it the attention it requires, knowing that it will slowly transform, and change us in the process. 

We cannot only be grateful for the things which we feel give us something good in return.

True gratitude is about being grateful for life itself and everything that comes with it.

But we have to start somewhere.

To begin with, just look around. Notice the small things. And there are many. Noticing, and practising gratitude for these things will soften our hearts when it comes to the bigger things—the things that we might not want to have or experience.

Today I am grateful for—

The bed I am sitting on while writing this (I should be at my desk but it is 9:30am on a Monday morning so I decided to work from bed and I’m grateful to have the option.)

The cheeky nap I just took between drafts of this piece.

The roof over my head and the protection it provides me from the elements.

The elements and how they constantly change and interact with each other. I’m grateful to be able to stare out the window right now and see the trees blowing in the wind and a pure grey sky that makes me even more comfortable sitting in bed.

The soft cleanliness of my clothing. I’m grateful for my fridge and kitchen cupboards and the sustaining food which is inside.

You, reading this piece. As I write this you are in the future and as you read this I am in the past. I’m grateful for all the time in between.

Not knowing how to begin being grateful for all the possessions around me which comfort me and help me manage my life.

I realise that this doesn’t even scratch the surface of what I can be grateful for and I am grateful for that problem.

When when we learn to see things as they are, there really is more to be grateful for than we have time to express.

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Relephant read:

When Gratitude Eludes you, Try this.

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Artist & author: Mike Medaglia

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

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