On Gratitude

Dear quarter lives,

Most of us are familiar with the advice be grateful, count your blessings, say thank you. But many of us can be unfamiliar with the feeling of gratitude itself. And it is definitely very difficult to practice something you do not quite understand. A few years ago, in the beginning of my quarter life crisis, all I could feel was anything but gratitude. I was so wrapped up in my own struggles and pain, that I was finding it very hard to find anything to say thank you for. I went to therapy, read books, listened to podcasts, and they all seemed to agree that saying thank you for even the simplest pleasures like a good cup of coffee can transform my experience of the world. So I began to think about this idea of saying thank you, but to be honest with you, I was mostly contemplating gratitude from a place of intellectual superiority to make fun of those who thought saying thank you was going to solve my problems. Ironically, it was this questioning that began to shake my own certainty in how I saw the world. I slowly began to see things that were always there, but I just wasn’t looking at them from the right angle to be able to see them. It did, in fact, all come down to how you see the world and what you choose to focus on. Again, this isn’t anything knew, I had heard all of this before, but I just never experienced it myself so I was baffled by just how simple and obvious it all was. I began to see just how my close-mindedness and arrogance kept me blind from all the good in life. Once I realised that I might not really know anything at all, the world began to feel much softer. Gratitude is really as life-changing as people say it is, but we never really know it until we experience it ourselves.

Remember the ever so popular, Is the glass half-full or half-empty? It is in fact always both, but what do you choose to see? —that is the more important question. Perhaps you do not choose the fact that there is water in the glass in the first place, but now that it is there, and now that there’s nothing you can do about it being there, you can’t add more water and fill the glass up to the rim, and you can’t empty it out until it’s absolutely empty, what do you choose to see? It is that choice that is life-changing. It is that choice to see abundance rather than lack that transformed my life. It is that choice that transformed me from victim to superhero in my own life. It is that choice that gave me the power to shift how I saw myself, to shift my state of being from a passive one i.e. being someone who life happened to, to an active state of being i.e. being someone who participates in her life. That choice is how I reclaimed my power back. It is how I was able to let go of what I could not control and embrace what I could. And so, I have come to understand that gratitude does not miraculously happen to us. It is a conscious choice to be grateful, and one that requires hard work and practice like any new habit you form. It takes a lot of hard work in the beginning to let go of old cravings to complain, and it takes a lot of saying, No, not today! , to our habitual responses to pain. It takes a lot of hard work to develop a gratitude practice, but as with any practice, it gets easier the more consistent you are with it, and eventually it becomes a part of you and happens as automatically as the glass of water you drink when you’re thirsty. It just happens, every day, all day, without effort or thought. It becomes so necessary to your daily nourishment that you wonder how you went through life all those years without it. You begin to understand why you felt so hungry all the time, but just didn’t know for what. Our souls crave the goodness in life, just like our bodies crave good food. And gratitude, I believe, is how we find that goodness.

Gratitude is like a pair of x-ray vision glasses that allow you to filter through whatever shit you see in life and find the goodness in it. Like underneath all our flesh, there’s always bone; so it is in life, under all that shit and suffering and fear, there is always goodness, there is always love. But we must choose to put on our gratitude glasses everyday, because otherwise the good might be hard to see through all that dirt. That is not to say that the dirt is bad. It’s a necessary part of our life experience. It gives us the opportunity to grow, for there is no greater teacher than discomfort and that is what the dirt in life does — it exerts enormous pressure on us so that we can evolve into our most authentic self. One very important lesson I’ve learnt is that it is always much less painful to accept the invitation to be taught than to resist it. The thing is the dirt will come anyway and will try to teach you anyway whether you greet it with open arms or lock your doors shut, but what accepting the invitation does is give you power. In allowing something to happen to you, you become an equal party in the decision, you are no longer victim, and you share equal responsibility for the outcome and the journey. It becomes your responsibility to make the best out of it. You have more rights when you sign a contract than when you don’t. And declining the invitation, just means you have no contract, and when you have no contract, you don’t feel secure. By not accepting the invitation, you give your power away to whoever will take it. And who is always starving for power? Your ego. And what fuel does your ego run on? Fear. And so, it is always up to you, whether to choose fear or love, whether to look at the glass half-full or half-empty, whether to feel gratitude or not. It is always your choice what to see. It is always your choice what to experience. It is always your choice to move forward or stop.

I will leave you with one last thought. There is no one alive that is not worth discovering their most authentic self, so do not shy from any invitation to discover who you really are. Do not ever feel like you should not question or ask, for there is no discovery without questions. A journey after all is but a series of questions whose answers hand you over to the next question like batons in a relay race. So do not fear the questions, for they are the only way we can find the answers. It is a highly personalised journey and your questions will only offer answers that serve to guide you, and no other. Your questions will help illuminate your path in the darkest of tunnels so trust your questions, love them, celebrate them and most importantly thank them.

With love and always for peace,

S.A.

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