The Joy of Gratitude
There is so much going on in the world today - so many atrocities, tragedies. Sometimes the things I see on the news or read in an article make me angry or upset or bring tears to my eyes. But it also makes me grateful for what I do have and for the blessings I have in my life. Not that I need to see the sufferings of others to make me grateful because I am grateful already. But it just magnifies the blessings that I have.
Recently, I walked through a new, big and beautiful Whole Foods grocery store. I saw all the people walking around buying their expensive this, expensive that, fancy food items, fresh waters, teas, fancy beers and whatnot. But what stuck in my head at that moment were the pictures I had recently seen of Rohingya Muslim refugees living in squalor in make-shift camps in Bangladesh. Comparing and contrasting the clean beauty and bountifulness of the Whole Foods and the misery and destitution of the Rohingya Muslim refugees reminded me of how truly blessed I am as so many of us are. The simple pleasures of clean water, hot meals, warm beds are so often overlooked in our materialistic society where we want more pleasure, money, comfort and convenience faster than ever.
In the Yoga Sutras (a classic Indian text), the author, Patanjali, lists out the “don’ts and do’s” of yoga philosophy. These are known as the yamas and niyamas. One of the niyamas, or things we should practice, is santosha which is a sanskrit word meaning complete contentment or satisfaction. The application of santosha is multi-layered, affecting both our inner and outer worlds and how we interact with others. Santosha asks us to be content with what we have, to not take more than what we need and to accept others, ourselves and our circumstances as they are, meeting life with equanimity despite its ups and downs, successes and failures and numerous struggles. The magic is that when we are able to meet all of life’s circumstances with equanimity, we are then able to ground ourselves in unshakeable peace. Sure, it’s a tall order, but the sages and saints proved it can be done; so we can dive right in and try too.
One of the ways we can get to that unshakeable peace is to practice gratitude, which I see as an important part of santosha. I believe it’s harder for us to be unhappy and dissatisfied with our lives (including what we have or don’t have) when we are focused on how blessed we are and feeling gratitude in our hearts. For example, its harder to be angry about a morning rush hour traffic jam when we are actively contemplating the fact that we are lucky to have a job to go to that provides for us and our families and that we have four reliable wheels to get us there. This doesn’t mean we don’t look for a new job that might bring in more money or make better use of our skills and talents because we are grateful for the current one job. Rather it makes us focus on the sunny side of things. Yep, gratitude makes us more optimistic and happy, helping us delight more in the blooms of life instead of cursing the thorns. And that goes a long way to making life better for ourselves and spreading joy around us.
I’ve blogged about gratitude several times this year because it seems it’s something that has been steady on my heart since earlier this year. I guess it’s apropos to end the year once again talking about gratitude, especially since this is the season of gratitude, a season for us to hold our families closer and to be thankful for what we have - family, friends, health, jobs, goals we met and making it through another year.
It’s also time to make our New Year’s resolutions, to set our trails for 2018. There are several goals I have for the new year, but one thing I really want more of in the new year? Well, gratitude — because gratitude opens our hearts, fills us with love and humility and makes us present to the joy and blessings of the moment. And really, who wouldn’t want more of that? So, this year as you make your list of things you want to have, do or accomplish in 2018, consider all the goodness you already have in your life and the great things you have already achieved. You may feel a lift in your spirit where happiness resides.
With Love and Gratitude,