During the post-meditation discussion with my sangha (a community that meditates and studies together) recently, we discussed thankfulness in light of the coming holiday. A person said that he’d been reading about how we could learn to be grateful for everything – not just the things that feel good, or go our way, or make us happy, but everything.
It got me thinking. I’ve had a regular gratitude practice for years, either mentally or physically making a short list each day for things I’m grateful for. My husband (yes, we got married!) stepdaughter and I hold hands before meals and say what we’re thankful for that day. I’ve come to appreciate how this practice can quickly shift me out of any funk I might be feeling into a place of calm and ease.
Looking back over those many lists and mealtime thanks, however, I don’t think I’ve ever said that I’ve been thankful for something unpleasant, sad, painful or worrisome. I did not say I was thankful for a cold or migraine, for the person who said something rude, for the situation that did not remotely turn out the way I wanted it to, for a sleepless night, for the garbage that blows down the alley and into my garden, for the gas and electric bill.
Being grateful for only the things that make me personally happy is rather selfish, I realized, unless I hold a broader awareness. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being grateful that I got selected for a consulting job, yet at the same time, I want to be mindful of the person who didn’t get the job as a result of my good fortune. I could be grateful to my cold for getting me to slow down, chill out, and spend time in bed with my journal and a book. I could be grateful for the insult – real or perceived, which are sometimes hard to tell apart – for helping me see where my sore spots lie, where my ego still gets hooked.
- Do you have a regular gratitude practice, and if so, what benefits have you noticed?
- Have you ever been grateful for something unpleasant or seemingly negative?
- Are you thinking about starting a practice but aren’t sure how to begin?
If you’re willing, post your responses below. I’ll be grateful for the discussion!