Exploring gratitude

Stop. Look around you. What do you see?

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How often do you allow yourself the time to do this? To just step out of ordinary reality for a moment, and to really become aware of the world around you? Probably not nearly often enough. Most of us, including myself, fail at this quite horribly, because we are just way to busy living our lives.

So let us explore practices that can help us change this. Some of the most powerful ones are prayer and getting into a habit of saying ‘thank you’ for all the blessings that come our way every day. And some of you might grumble at this. ‘Which blessings? My life is not exactly perfect, there’s a lot of things I struggle with on a daily basis, so what would I need to be grateful for? And who on earth would I have to say thank you to?

But have you considered that you miss out on much of the beauty in your life because you fail to acknowledge it? And by failing to do so, you fail to give yourself the opportunity to invite more of that in. For remember that I am an animist, and so I look at this from a bit of a magical perspective. The world around us listens, and is aware of the energy you send out. And so if it tries to send you a blessing, and you do not react to it, how is it supposed to know that you liked that, and that you would actually like to have more of that in your life? If you are given a gift, and you don’t seem to enjoy it, do you expect to be given the same kind of present next time round?

And no, this post is not intended as a kind of ‘prosperity gospel’ or ‘becoming a millionaire by positive thinking’ type of new age-nonsense post. I know life can be difficult, I know a lot of people struggle with it, and the last thing I would ever want to propose is that that struggle is somehow their own fault, and that they could turn it all around with just a bit of positive thinking. That kind of thinking invites indifference to the suffering of others, and so that is the last thing I would possibly want to suggest.

But even the most miserable person is not miserable 100% of the time. And so what we should do is learn to recognize these tiny little moments of breathing space that are given to us. These little openings when the sun has a chance to shine within our darkness. Not so that we could accept our misery, but to start finding our roots again. To be reminded of the fact that we are alive. That there are options available if we would open ourselves to them.

And these may not seem like much at first. They might simply start with things like taking five minutes for yourself every day to do something that you like to do. No matter how horrible your life, you can manage five minutes. If necessary, sacrifice five minutes of sleep, or leave for work five minutes earlier so that you do not have to rush to the bus stop, but can take a few moments to admire that beautiful oak along the pathway or feel the rays of sunshine (or drops of rain) on your skin. A quick reminder that you are still alive. That there is beauty.

And that is where gratitude can help. When eating your meal, take a minute to say thank you. You can chose who you direct it to. And why not simply to the food itself? Thank the wheat, the chicken, the tomatoes for the fact that they support you in your life, that they give it taste and color, and that they give you the energy necessary to breathe another day.

Do the same when greeting the sun in the morning, or thanking the first tree you encounter that day for providing you with oxygen.

What good will that do? It will help you with awareness. It will make you slow down and actually taste that food, and it will help you realize that no matter how lonely you may feel sometimes, you are more connected and supported than you know. To all those who give you life. To the sun. To the trees. To the land that carries you.

Let that be the beginning of a relationship.

Then, after you have learned to do that, why not start an adventure? Ask to be guided. To be given the inspiration necessary to find your place in that web of connections. For one thing a practice like this will probably do is to help us become aware of how narrow our focus is most of the time, and how much we miss out on because of that.

So, become aware of how much you are already given, and be not afraid to ask for more. Ask for what is yours. Ask for happiness. For wholeness. For completion.

But beware. What this will give you is a sense of magic in your life. But magic is generally not a thing that you can control. It is a spell you send out in the world, and then ride on its wave. It means trusting in the wider intelligence of the world. And they will not give you what you want. They will give you what you need. And for some of us, what we need may well be for our life to start falling apart, forcing us to leave behind the toxic bits that are eating us alive and are making us live the life of a zombie. Or maybe forcing us into the realization that we cannot do this alone, and that there is no shame in going to a friend or a family member and confessing to them that you need support.

So have the courage to ask for help, and then to accept it. And during that process and the turmoil that is caused by it, continue practicing gratitude. Continue seeing the blessing present within both the sunshine and the thunderstorm.

Enjoy the ride.

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