Practice gratitude to experience a state a state of great-fullness.
Adapted from my book ‘Awaken The Happy You.”
When I was around eight or nine years old, I was out shopping with my mother one day. As we walked along the busy street filled with weekend shoppers, I remember being struck by the thought:
“Here we are, on a giant rock in some far-flung corner of the universe, hurtling through space at incredible speed.”
Clearly, I was the only person in the crowded street who was aware of this astonishing fact. Otherwise they wouldn’t just be shopping, would they?
Surely they’d all be standing around with their mouths hanging open in total awe and wonder.
Isn’t it amazing how these startling facts don’t blow us away?
Facts such as:
- our bodies are comprised of 37 trillion cells, all communicating and working in perfect harmony with one another.
- if you were to remove the space from the atoms that make up all the humans on Earth, the remaining mass could fit inside a sugar cube.
- uncoiled, the DNA in your body would stretch out 10 billion miles, the distance from the Earth to Pluto and back.
Awe, wonder and zest for life come naturally to young children. They inhabit a magical world—a world in which every moment is thrilling and every little thing appreciated.
Their very being is an expression of gratitude.
They don’t have distracting voices in their heads telling them they’re not good enough or that there’s something wrong with the world or with their lives.
They experience Life unfiltered and just as it is.
So what happens to us when we become adults?
As Adults, Our Attention Gets Hijacked By The Mind
Always preoccupied with past and future, we are no longer content with the moment as it is. We spend our days tuned into the mind TV station ‘Me and My Life’ and find it so compelling that we no longer notice the miracles going on all around us.
Our innate state of gratitude and joy is pushed into the background—drowned out by the noise of the thinking mind.
In truth, joy doesn’t go anywhere.
If, as all spiritual teachers tell us, joy is our true nature, then where could it go?
Joy doesn’t leave us. We leave joy.
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is one of the simplest and most potent ways to re-engage with the present moment and realign with the magic and wonder that’s always there.
3 Types of Gratitude
There are 3 distinct types of gratitude:
- gratitude as a tool
- gratitude as an attitude
- gratitude as an expression of who you are
Gratitude As A Tool
If your life is lacking presence and aliveness, gratitude is a potent tool for turning things around through consciously choosing to register more deeply the good that’s already present.
Choosing to count your blessings is a useful intervention whenever you catch yourself drifting off into your old, happiness-busting patterns such as complaining, blaming or judging.
Through pausing, taking a deep breath and bringing to mind three things to be grateful for, the following happens:
- you break the flow of your old story
- you bring your attention back to the present moment
- you align with the positive
- you strengthen your intention to choose for happiness
Each of us is the gardener of our own inner landscape. The plants we give most attention to are the ones that flourish.
When we complain, we water the weeds. Gratitude waters the flowers.
Our old, unhappy patterns and stories are validated and reinforced through the attention we give them. By consistently withdrawing our energy, through practicing gratitude, we starve them of nutrients and they begin to wither and die.
The first type of gratitude comes from the surface of the mind. It is a simple choice that flows from the intention to focus on the positive.
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Gratitude As An Attitude
The second type of gratitude is less specific and more all-encompassing than the first.
It is a general attitude towards life that stems from the recognition that there is an underlying order behind the apparent chaos and madness — an unfathomable intelligence at work.
This attitude flows from the understanding that the purpose of life is not necessarily to be comfortable but to awaken to our highest potential.
The first type of gratitude is selective. You root out the weeds and nourish the flowers, using the mind to discern which plants to water.
With the second, gratitude flows from the heart and is directed towards the whole garden, weeds and all.
You no longer see ‘bad things’ as being in opposition to your happiness.
They are like the black notes on the piano, without which the symphony of life could not play out.
The weeds play an important role in helping us grow.
When things don’t go your way, you no longer believe life is against you. You see that life’s challenges contain within them a gift that encourages and supports your growth.
When we become too entrenched in our comfortable little nests, we become dull and disconnected. Life’s challenges keep us on our toes. They prevent us from gathering cobwebs — from becoming numb and complacent.
This second type of gratitude is a natural consequence of knowing there’s a higher purpose to life.
It comes from the knowledge that whatever shows up, however things look—good or bad, easy or challenging—it is the exact prescription needed for our growth.
Eckhart Tolle, spiritual teacher and author of “The Power of Now,” writes:
“How do you know that your life is perfect as it is?”
“Because it is happening.”
What we want to happen or how we want things to be is not necessarily what’s best for our happiness in the bigger picture.
Gratitude As An Expression Of Who You Are
I invite you to bring to mind the best moment you’ve ever had in your life. If you think of more than one, just choose the first one that comes to you.
Now I’ll describe that experience to you.
It was a moment of intense presence, aliveness and deep peace — a perfect moment with no sense of anything lacking or missing.
It was an experience outside of time — a moment of deep connection, gratitude and love.
All notions of me, my life, my problems or my happiness were temporarily forgotten, even if only for a moment.
Am I close?
It’s impossible to express pure being-ness through words alone. At the same time, it’s something we are all intimately familiar with. So familiar, in fact, that we routinely overlook it. It is literally closer than your breath.
If you were to take a few moments right now to set aside all ideas associated with an individual personal self — just put them down in a pile beside you — your personal history, memories, beliefs, judgements, preferences, all notions of past or future — what would remain?
Would ‘you’ still be there? What kind of experience might you be having ?
The one remaining would be experiencing unbounded peace, love and gratitude.
Actually, it is more accurate to say that the one remaining would BE unbounded peace, love and gratitude.
These are all qualities of the unconditioned Self.
The third type of gratitude is not a tool to use or an attitude to cultivate. It is a natural expression of who you are.
Throughout our lives we have learned to identify deeply with the self-image, the constantly fluctuating kaleidoscope of thoughts, feelings, emotions and physical sensations that we perceive to be this solid person called “me”.
When most people say ‘I’, they mean their self-image, not the original, true Self.
When we have a ‘peek’ experience — whether by chance or intentionally through spiritual practice — of who we are beyond the body and thinking mind, we discover that we ARE love, we ARE gratitude, we ARE peace… and we already are happiness.
“Don’t be a person experiencing peace. Be peace.” — Papaji
If these words resonate with you and you’d like to dive deeper into a direct experience of peace, love and gratitude now, I have some powerful practices and insights I’d love to share with you.
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