Editor’s note: read more about Osho here.
“What are you grateful for?” they’ll ask around the dinner table.
We’ll go down the list with our earnest answers, served up as predictably as turkey and mashed potatoes: Family. Friends. Health. Home.
None of this is bad, of course. Practicing gratitude is a healthy part of any mindfulness practice.
But there is a danger in this kind of cursory thankfulness inventory, which calls to mind things we have (or think we have), with a sense of claiming, even clinging.
The spiritual teacher Osho said, “Here is what you should do: make an effort to find out what things it would hurt you to lose. Then, before they are lost, open your hands little by little, relax your grip on them. This is the method for conquering attachment.”
Real gratitude means recognizing that, actually, we own nothing. We are entitled to nothing. And yet, look at all of this.
The way you get there is by letting go. Here are three simple practices to help cultivate gratitude through non-attachment:
Accept things as they are.
Expectation is the root of disappointment. We want things to be a certain way, or to not be a certain way, and our acceptance hinges on those conditions being met.
The problem is, most of the time these conditions represent fanciful wishes over which we have no control. We become attached to an outcome that may never come true.
When you let go of expectations, it frees you to see the good in places you hadn’t noticed before.
Sometimes the most valuable experiences are those you wouldn’t have necessarily wanted.
Accept things as they change.
When my son was first born, we heard a common lament from well-meaning visitors: “They grow up too fast!”
The comment would always ping me with anxiety. Am I taking enough photos? Am I appropriately revering his tiny little fingers and toes? Am I dutifully present enough when he wakes me up all night, every night, to nurse?
It became more about capturing the correct moment in time than about witnessing the miracle of transformation.
When things are good, there’s nothing wrong with appreciating it. But be careful that the appreciation doesn’t hinge on everything staying exactly how it is. How quickly gratitude can turn into fear.
I put down my phone. I got down on the ground with him, on his little activity mat. We looked at the shadows the plants made on the walls, listened to music. Each day a little different. Each day something new.
He started rolling over. Then sitting. Then crawling. Then walking.
Growing up, just fast enough.
Accept what you will lose.
What would it hurt you to lose? Your job? Your family? Your home? Your health? None of these things are forever. There is a powerful lesson in this inevitability.
As Osho challenges us, have the courage to be curious about those things you think you couldn’t lose. If the thought makes you uncomfortable, you’re on the right track. Can you use the discomfort to put these things into a new perspective?
Real gratitude is not conditional. It is the quiet, awe-inspiring realization of the beautiful, fleeting things that just happen to exist right now…but not forever.