I can walk down a street and be worrying about financial matters or what my partner really thinks about me these days when I say something critical towards her.
I’m a busy guy and have a lot of responsibilities! I have things to accomplish and deadlines to meet.
There is always a potential, impending disaster if I think about the possibilities enough. Right? There are endless worries that can flood a mind and obscure gratitude.
What about the news media and its daily onslaught of negativity?
You notice, if I’m worrying about things, I’m not really experiencing the present moment. I’m not experiencing God’s bounty or the mystical, eternal now if you like. We can do better.
Try these 3 steps to experience more gratitude:
1. Appreciation of Nature
When I consider gratitude, I visualize the beauty of nature.
Recently, I heard an audio book mention Proust and his writings’ focus on living deeply, moment by moment. In this sense, it sounds Buddhist. I mention Proust and nature because I often take walks in my Cambridge, MA neighborhood and look in awe at the abundant natural world around me.
It fills me with gratitude. In a moment like this, how could I ever feel deprived? There are birds flying, flower colors, floating clouds, a breeze, strong sunshine, squirrels scurrying up trees, and drifting butterflies all around me. These are sensual gifts that accompany a sense of gratitude.
In addition, what about the continuous recycling of nature? The continuous birth and death cycle? This gives me a sense of abundance and gratitude that I exist as part of a universe that is eternal, all forgiving, and regenerative.
2. Spiritual Practice
There is also an inner gratitude developed from contemplation and spiritual endeavors. When we spend more time in stillness, gratitude and joy automatically reveals itself. This is especially true if we can experience moments of “no thought”.
We don’t have to go into prayer or meditation with a goal of receiving anything specific. Just the simple, repeated practice of stillness will result in joy and gratitude as a bi-product. Out of “nothingness” comes abundant joy and serenity.
In addition, we can start a meditation by thanking the Universe for specific things in our life before we reach a state of stillness. This primes our soul for a state of loving receptivity and gratitude while resting in meditation. We can form a habit of gratitude that accompanies a simple, spiritual practice.
I like to remind myself that a spiritual practice is never “perfect” and it’s never “wrong” or “bad” even if I sit to meditate and my mind is swirling with a thousand thoughts. Just the fact I took a few minutes to sit still and “tried” is a victory and will pay dividends later.
Just anything else in life, spiritual practice is a just that: a practice. It’s not perfect and it gets better as we go along in our journey.
Gratitude just seems to increase the more we try to stay on a path.
3. What is In Front of Me Right Now?
The moneyless monk living in a monastery is often very content and happy. I believe the monk has a lot of gratitude for “what is”.
Gratitude can be a way of life if we remind ourselves upon awakening to focus on gratitude.
What is in front of you right now? What can you be grateful for?
Perhaps, you just had a chat with a friend or took a walk with your mostly, healthy physical body. Maybe the apple you just bit into is particularly delicious? It can be, if you take a moment to notice it.
Radical gratitude. We can live this way and recognize what has always been happening. Now, we choose to notice it.
What are you grateful for? Have you ever written a gratitude list?