“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” ~ Meister Eckhart.
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh, from The Miracle of Mindfulness
How often do you start your day by thanking God and appreciating for the amazing life He has given you? Or let me ask you this. When did you last say “thank you” to someone to show how grateful you were for them?
You see, gratitude is such a small thing, but it can have a huge impact on your life, and the life of that person. But then…
What is Gratitude?
Wikipedia defines gratitude as – “…a feeling or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive.”
So, when you tell yourself how thankful you are for…
• Roof over your head
• Food in your plate
• Your health
• Your relationships
• Your family
• Your job
• Your holidays
…you are showing gratitude towards the great things in life.
This is in fact that default form of gratitude you’re likely to come up with when you attempt to make a list of things to be grateful for, in good times and bad.
I often meet people who would counter their negative emotions by saying, “At least, I have a roof over my head” or “At least I have food to eat.”
This form of gratitude, which starts with the words “at least”, is a great way to tell yourself how grateful you are for your material possessions, which someone else does not have. But that’s not the best form of gratitude, my friend. These are, after all, things that create just a temporary feeling of gratitude in you.
“Why do you say so?” you may wonder. Well, if I change your circumstances – like I remove food from your plate or ask you to leave your home – you won’t be grateful for these possessions anymore. Right?
So what I am saying is that when we feel grateful “due to our circumstances”, that’s not the best form of gratitude we can show. Such kind of gratitude is fragile since all it takes to knock you out of state is a change in circumstances. Even three words like “You are fired!” or “I hate you!” or “You lost it!” can kill it.
The “Real” Gratitude
I believe real thankfulness or gratitude is independent of situations and circumstances. This is a feeling of gratitude for life itself, for existence, for anything and everything you experience.
So, instead of a temporary emotion, this type of gratitude is more of an underlying attitude. With practice it becomes part of your identity. So you are grateful not by choice, but just by nature.
Like being grateful for…
• Your life
• Your heart
• Your mind
• Your ego
• Your mistakes
• Your problems and challenges
• Your consciousness
• Your emotions
So, where the first type of gratitude we discussed above says, “How wonderful this thing is!” the real gratitude says, “How wonderful it is to exist!”
You feel grateful despite the circumstances you are in and without any justification.
Now, that is fascinating because you are grateful for your existence. After all…
You’re a Miracle!
Scientists estimate the probability of your being born as a human was miniscule. It’s same as the probability of 2.5 million people getting together – about the population of Nagpur or Kanpur in India – each to play a game of dice with trillion-sided dice, and they each roll the dice, and they all come up the exact same number, say 123,456,789,678.
You got the point, right?
A miracle is defined as an event so unlikely as to be almost impossible. Wikipedia says, “A miracle is an event not ascribable to human power or the laws of nature and consequently attributed to a supernatural, especially divine, agency.”
By that definition, you are a miracle. Now go ahead and feel grateful for the miracle that you are.
Start with making a list of five things you feel grateful about. Do this daily. Right now, light up your day by saying “thank you” to life. Right now, light up someone else’s day by saying, “Thank you for being you!”
Don’t just keep the gratitude on the inside. Express it.
Make other people happier too – and help them to perhaps pay it forward later on – by expressing how you are grateful for having them in your life. Plus, their smile and the joy in their eyes when you tell them this will make you happier too.
Now, that gratitude could just be a small sentence. But it can have a big impact on someone’s day, week or even life sometimes.
So tell the people in your life.
Tell them in person tonight. Or write an email or a letter to someone a little further away in the world. Or send a small text message right now.
Conclusion – Let’s Practice the Gratitude Exercise
Most of us (myself included) could benefit from adding more gratitude and thankfulness into our life. Here are three ways to do that:
1. Begin a gratitude journal – It might sound odd, but starting a gratitude journal will help focus your attention on the positive things in your life. Use this journal to record three or five things that you are grateful for each day and be open to sharing those items or the list with others. Over time, you will have a short book of all the people and things that have brought joy to your days.2. End your day with gratitude – Our family has begun a bedtime ritual. Before we say our final goodnights, we each share our favourite part of the day and what we are grateful for. My hope is that by doing this each night as a family, our kids will forever remember the importance of giving thanks and looking for the positive in each day. If you have kids, consider adding this to their bedtime routine. You might be surprised to hear some of their answers.
3. Say “thank you” to others as often as possible – Just like “I love you,” those two words – “Thank you” – can make a difference in others’ lives. Let the people who you appreciate know they are appreciated.
You see, gratitude makes others happy and gratitude makes us happy. So everybody wins.
Let me leave you with a prayer of gratitude that I’ve always found great to read and re-read –
Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.
It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfilment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.
GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.
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