The attitude of gratitude has been resonating with me lately and not just because Thanksgiving is tomorrow.
In three weeks — exactly two weeks before I leave for India — I am scheduled for a medical procedure because of certain pains I’ve been having for the last few months. I am concerned but I’m also not worried about it. I believe that our mindset is a big determiner in the quality of our lives, indeed, in our physical health, so I am thinking positive. Besides…I already made the decision a long time ago that I will not die an unlived life.
I also received an email this morning from a friend that who told me that a woman she knows, a woman with children in college and a child in 8th grade, was killed, sitting in her car in front of her house. A teenager sideswiped her as she sat in front of her house. My friend said she was glad — grateful if you will — that the woman’s children were all home for the holiday, that they were all together when this happened.
Think about that. Think about how the Universe always drop kicks us into the present moment. It always serves us a big steaming pile of “HELLO! I’M HERE AND YOU’D BETTER PAY ATTENTION!”, i.e., pay attention to how we live our lives. But do we really pay attention? Do we really take the Universe’s lessons to heart? Or do we have the attention spans of flies?
Do we take time to consider whether we are truly living our lives with authentic presence? Not just being “in the present moment” — that has almost become a cliche nowadays — but living with bare, naked, authentic awareness of our reality. Not being ignorant of it, as Buddha taught. Not running from it, not wishing it was something that it is not, not holding on with dear life to things that are by their nature impermanent, but standing squarely and solidly and facing the good and the bad and the tragic with equanimity. And having gratitude for all of it.
I found this link about gratitude and I love what it has to say. There’s a little story about the violinist Itzhak Perlman…
“…”You know,” he said, “sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much beautiful music you can still make with what you have left.”
We have to wonder, was he speaking of his violin strings or his crippled body? And is it true only for artists? We are all lacking something, and so we are all challenged to answer the question: Do we have the attitude of making something of beauty out of what we do have, incomplete as it may be?
The Hebrew term for gratitude is hikarat hatov, which means, literally, “recognizing the good.” Practicing gratitude means recognizing the good that is already yours.
If you’ve lost your job, but you still have your family and health, you have something to be grateful for.
If you can’t move around except in a wheelchair but your mind is as sharp as ever, you have something to be grateful for.
If you’ve broken a string on your violin, and you still have three more, you have something to be grateful for.
When you open up to the trait of gratitude, you see clearly and accurately how much good there is in your life. Gratitude affirms. Those things you are lacking are still there, and in reaching for gratitude no one is saying you ought to put on rose-colored glasses to obscure those shortcomings. But most of us tend to focus so heavily on the deficiencies in our lives that we barely perceive the good that counterbalances them….”
Why wait until tomorrow to give thanks? A simple way to practice gratitude is making giving thanks part of your everyday life. I got into that habit when I was at my retreat in California, taking a few minutes before each meal to give thanks and to dedicate the merits of the meal to all homeless and hungry people all over the world.
Drink a glass of gratitude with that turkey — or tofu turkey! — tomorrow.
so shall it be