Each of us reading this post woke up this morning to a new day of possibilities in a world filled with great beauty and many wonders, but did we take even a moment in time to reflect on it and express heartfelt gratitude for all that has been placed before us? It is so easy to take for granted the miracle of just being alive, being able to experience all the wondrous events that fill a lifetime, no matter how long or short the time we get to spend here on Earth might be. For many of us, our lives have already seemed so long that we just assume that the sun will rise on another day and, so we move through each day as if it is nothing special – just another normal day in another week in another month in another year of our ongoing life. It sometimes seems like things will just keep going on like they have forever, but, of course, we all know deep inside that they won’t. Few of us are spared the pain of realizing that life doesn’t last forever, whether the realization is brought about by experiencing the loss of loved ones or from coming face to face through unexpected circumstance with our own sense of mortality.
So how do we counteract the fear and bitterness that can often occur from the sense that all might be taken away from us at any moment and when we least expect it? We can begin by working to completely change our perception of life and learning to daily express gratitude for the multitude of blessings, large and small, that fill each and every one of our days. First, practicing this daily attitude of gratitude will begin to make us acutely aware that our life, so far, has not just been an unpredictable game of chance, but again and again we have been showered with opportunities and necessities that showed up in the right place and at the right moment to provide for our needs and increase our happiness. We also begin to learn that our satisfaction with life has more to do with the thankful attitude in which we accept what we are given than with the quality, frequency and amount of what we actually receive. The sense of appreciation we culture within ourselves actually make life’s many blessings, even the simple ones, taste so much sweeter – and that sweetness will eventually sweeten the very fiber of our soul and the inner character of who we are as human beings living together in this wonder-filled world.
If you are a religious person, your way to practice an attitude of gratitude is relatively easy to begin. I’m sure that you have probably found yourself asking God in prayer for something that you really wanted at some point in time throughout your life, but did you always remember to pause and be thankful in prayer for the many blessings that subsequently came into your life? It’s not so easy to remember to be thankful when the good thing you asked for has already occurred – we’re usually rushing off to the next big thing in our life around the next corner. Many religions have a ritual practice of thanksgiving. I have noticed that religious Jewish folks seem to have a blessing they say for everything – for each meal, for a new suit of clothing, for the first taste of new fruits of the season, for a safe journey, for being able to come together to celebrate holidays and life-cycle events – for just about anything and everything, large or small. I’m sure that this tradition was instituted by their sages to keep their people ever mindful of all that God has provided them with and to make, through constant appreciation, their experience of life ever so much more wonderful and fulfilling. I think that all of us need to try to culture a similar practice of conscious and consistent giving of thanks for all that we receive – certainly in outward expression to others who give to us of their kindness, but also inwardly for all of the blessings that the universe constantly showers upon each and every one of us throughout the days of our lives.
If you are not religiously inclined, then offer your thanks to the universal one – that eternal source and power in the universe from which all life, all existence flows. If you have doubts that such a supreme source and power even exists, both within your very being and throughout all of the universe, spend a few moments looking at the beauty in nature that surrounds you and contemplate on it and your ability to perceive it – the sky above you, the forest, the ocean, even the flower that grows up from the crack in the sidewalk. Witness the profound order expressed in each and every living thing that occupies our world, then try to focus on the universal source of that order – the very source responsible for you being here to experience this life in this place in time.
It is easy to forget how many wonderful things have happened to us in our lives when we don’t acknowledge them in a memorable way. One suggestion that might help us gain greater appreciation of just how blessed we are is to keep a small notebook with a list of each good thing that happens to us recorded when it happens. It is very powerful to review the list every once in a while and experience the deep sense of appreciation that can come from seeing the multitude of blessings that have been bestowed upon us. So, what is a candidate for such a list? Just about any good thing, large or small, that you experience – an important or even chance meeting with another that goes well, a wonderful time spent with loved ones, any endeavor that works out favorably, any special reward that comes your way, an answer to anything you have earnestly wished or prayed for, a simply wonderful day, any pleasure you enjoy – just about anything that is worthy of appreciation. Then, focus on being thankful for being given the opportunity to be here now to experience this and all other blessings that come to you.
In closing, let me leave you with this advice – if you haven’t already, be sure to take a moment out of your day today to inwardly reflect on some wonderful thing, person, living creature or event present in your life that brings you inner happiness. Don’t let your mind focus on what you don’t have at this moment, but on what you do have – and be truly thankful for it. It will change you in a powerful way and begin to increase the blessings that flow into your life by increasing your awareness of how blessed you truly are. Namaste.
Post Note from Rik Vig: After reading the comment below from my son, Ryan, I decided to add this post note regarding the importance of practicing active and frequent outward expression of thankfulness and gratitude to others who come into our lives. From our most intimate loved ones and family, close or casual friends, personal or professional acquaintances, to all of the many other souls we encounter in the course of our lifetime, we need to make a real and heartfelt effort to outwardly acknowledge the wonderful things, big and small, that they bring into our life – from the huge acts of loving kindness right on down to the simplest things like a smile or kind word. Like you mother always told you – remember to always say thank you – and really mean it! You’ll be better for it.