As the world as we have known it is slipping away, many of us are trying to cling onto our tiny life rafts either trying to hold onto “how things used to be” or we are paralyzed with fear with “what will be”. Checking virus statistics in each state, identifying hot spots, violent outbursts, travel bans, protests and on and on. In both of these scenarios, we are either turning our minds and our heads into the past or turning those same minds and heads while projecting into the future. And yet, in the great mystery and irony of life, neither of these actually can be grasped in any concrete way. We can’t go back into the past and we can’t jump into the future. The only place to be is in the present moment – the gift that is given to us again and again – and there is absolutely nothing we have to do to earn it. It just is. We honor this present moment in one way – gratitude.
All of this sounds easy enough – practice gratitude, smell the roses, give thanks, but what does practicing gratitude actually really mean? What does it look like? What are the steps that we need to take in order to grow our gratitude muscle? First, we must SLOW DOWN. Our current pandemic has created a global opportunity to do just this – to slow down. To take a breath. To sit. To be. Slowing down helps ground us into the present moment and helps bring intention and focus. Slowing down calms our minds and releases tension in our bodies and sets us up well for our next step which is to NOTICE. We begin to wake up and notice the gifts that exist all around us – a cool breeze, a sunray hitting the green leaf of a flower, the morning dew on the grass, a bird chirping, a baby giggling with delight – the list is endless and ever flowing. Noticing the abundance of gifts that come our way in the present moment over and over and over again helps us tap into that groundswell of wellbeing, of calm, of peace. When we notice, we appreciate, and when we appreciate, we send out positive vibrations into the world. And when we send those vibrations out, they join other vibrations and circle their way back to us – creating a positive feedback loop where deep shifts of perspective begin to happen. Noticing set us up beautifully for the next part which is to TAKE ACTION. We “live in the world of ten thousand things” (Dogen 1200-1253) – which means that we are all in this together in this current physical form on our planet at this moment. We are connected with all and are inextricably linked to all that exists in a beautiful interconnected web. Our gratitude practice, therefore, is not something to keep for ourselves. The joy in gratitude comes from sharing it and from opening ourselves up and being vulnerable to do something with it. There are infinite ways to manifest this action – by standing up to injustices, by supporting peace, by loving your dog, by expressing yourself creatively, by sharing your unique gifts with the world. This expression of gratitude springs forth from a deep sense of that connection to all that is. Tapping into this endless wellspring taps us into joy, taps us into happiness, taps us into possibility and abundance and creativity. Gratitude gives us the pathway towards the joy and happiness that each of us seeks and it is there for each and every one of us. No exceptions.
Here’s the tricky part. Can we be grateful for poverty or inequity or injustice or bullying or war or famine or sickness? And the answer to that question is no, we can’t. But we also need to be mindful of where we are placing our energy – by placing “ungratitudeness” towards something that we judge or don’t want to have in our experience, we merge our energy with that same unwanted energy. Being resentful, angry, envious, revengeful just creates the same feedback loop of negative energy and we, in fact, become a part (even if it’s a tiny part) of that same problem. “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” (Albert Einstein) What we can do is be grateful for the potential of this moment, for it offers infinite possibilities for creating the next moment. We stand on the leading edge of expansion and are the creators of our own individual and collective existence with gratitude as our pathway. And if we “don’t get it right” in this moment, another one shows up for us and when we understand the power within us and tap into this endless gift of the present moment, our gratitude grows and swells and fills up the cracks until we are able to truly see just how magnificent life really is.