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The Gift Of Gratitude

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered, “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

As the late great Jim Morrison of ‘The Doors’ prophetically sang in ‘Five to One’ and the title of his biography, “No one here gets out alive”. Flat out, even if you believe in reincarnation, you are going to die. You ain’t getting’ outta here alive so we might want to start learning how to live while here today.

By and large, we as a human species are a mental mess. Imagine this:

  • You get into your automobile to go to a pre-determined destination. While getting settled into the drivers seat, you adjust the rear view mirror so you can see everything behind you clear as a whistle. You glance out the front windshield, start driving forward, and then look into the rear view mirror for guidance the rest of the way to your destination.

Um…how successful do you think you’re going to be arriving there without running into all types of obstacles, problems and accidents? That’s how most of us are living our lives. We look into our past to determine where we are going in the future, which as the Dalai Lama succinctly stated, “the result being that man does not live in the present OR the future”. If this is the case, then I believe there may be a need for us to start learning how to live in the present.

The late, great and wise mentor of mine, Van Carrigan said this, “Things are the way they are and thinking that they should be different does not allow you to recognize the one thing that is always there…the present”. One of the most powerful and important keys to unlocking the secret of living in the present rather than ‘thinking things should be different’ is this…GRATITUDE.

According to Merriam-Webster: Gratitude is defined as, “a state of being grateful; thankful”. Grateful is defined as, “appreciative of benefits received”. Thankful is defined as, “conscious of benefit received”. In every form there is an acknowledgement of a benefit that is being received. Part of our challenge as human beings is our misunderstanding of what is beneficial and what is not. Most of us only assign ‘benefit’ to events, people and situations that ‘feel good’ in the moment and assign ‘wrong and bad’ to occurrences that don’t. The reality is that as the Apostle Paul wrote in Thessalonians 5:18, “in ALL things give thanks”.

To be grateful for things when they are great, perceived or real should be easy to do. However, as sad as it is, even when this is so, most people are so consumed by looking for the negative, they are blind to the multitude of things in their life to be grateful for even though they are literally right in front of them. To be grateful for life, breathing, air, sight, hearing, good health, family, friends, a job, home, safety, children, etc. is often overlooked because of focusing more on what one doesn’t have (“thinking things should be different”) rather than what you do have.

The real challenge is how do you respond when things are bad? True gratitude is being thankful even when it doesn’t look like there is anything to be thankful for. When you are sick, be thankful; when you get fired, be thankful; when you are in an accident, be thankful; when you’ve lost a loved one, be thankful; when it looks like you are at the end of the rope and there is nowhere to go, be thankful. Many times though in the moment it may look catastrophic, it proves to be the best thing that ever happened to us. (BTW...I'm writing this for me;-)

To collapse time and recognize this in the moments of challenge rather than waiting for hindsight to reveal the lesson is the gift of gratitude. Not only will your life be more fulfilling, peaceful and blessed; you will finally learn the secret of truly living…in each beautiful moment of the present whether it looks good or bad with gratitude for it ALL.