In America we have a whole holiday dedicated to gratitude, Thanksgiving. We are encouraged, once a year, to reflect on the things and people we are grateful for. While for some this holiday becomes a celebration of the excess afforded by the American lifestyle for others it is a time for meditation.
Gratitude is one of those qualities that we speak about a lot. In fact, we get a lot of mixed messages about it! It gets brought up when we are at our low points: "well, at least I'm grateful that I'm alive." At our high points: "I'm so thankful for all of you in my life!!" It can be used to connect us to others: "I'm so appreciative of you." Or to instill shame: "You should be grateful for everything I've done for you!" Although gratitude is deeply embedded in our language what is it like to actually live in gratitude?
It's pretty difficult! It can be hard to access the feeling of gratitude in our daily lives. It's easy to talk about it, but letting it in is another matter entirely. So what does gratitude feel like? What's the moment to moment experience? For me, there's a swelling in my chest, I feel inflated. Also, time seems to slow down, there's a pause. And then, there's a very small, but very powerful moment of wonder. When I slow down and take in everything around me I am spellbound. It can be overwhelming in a way! Life, culture, and relationships are all full of miracles. It's awe inspiring how it all fits together.
Let's take for example the computer you are reading this blog on. Take a moment to think about all the things you've done in your life in order to be able to afford it, all those moments worked, all the emotions you felt while doing so, and all the people you encountered on the way. Then look at the machine itself, think about all the scientists and engineers that contributed to it's design, and not just the ones that built it, I'm talking about thousands of years of scientific achievement that led up to the invention of the computer. Now envision the people who physically built the machine, their families, their lives, everyone they've touched. And last but not least, think about the raw materials the computer is made from, they came from the earth. Imagine the extraction and refinement process, imagine the elements being created over trillions of years. Breathe out.
There's so much to be thankful for in every moment! It's insane. No wonder our minds try to guard against it. Now how do we act on it. Well, the answer is actually very simple, we just open ourselves up, we allow ourselves to feel how interconnected we all are. We open ourselves up to the splendor and we wait, we listen.