I am starting to understand what Gratitude means… I think. Gratitude is a choice we make; and this choice determines the quality of the rest of our lives. “It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude. It’s gratitude that brings us happiness.” – Anonymous
Finding the teacher you didn’t even know you were looking for
We can all recognise gratitude when we feel it. It is the feeling we get when we recognise that we have received in excess of our due. Gratitude is the feeling you get when you receive a gift you were not expecting and had done nothing to earn. Unfortunately we do not spend much time enjoying the feeling of gratitude. This is because we do not regularly feel that we are getting more than we deserve. Worse in fact, many of us feel that we are getting less than we deserve. This feeling is called resentment.
But here is a bombshell, gratitude means seeing things as they are. I had the absolute privilege of attending Etsko Schuitema’s “Personal Excellence” program. It was one of those life changing moments that’s forever shifted my world view and my take on the purpose of life.
What he helped me to understand is that if you are not grateful, you are doing violence to the truth. This was a profound realisation that got me to reflect deeply on my attitudes in life. In the first instance, what this means for us is that we should be choosing gratitude, deliberately. Not to any individual in particular, but to life itself. Simple concept. Deceptively simple. It takes immense drive and energy to implement.
Why should you be Grateful?
The root idea is you owe more gratitude to the universe than you acknowledge. You owe more gratitude to the universe than you are consciously aware of. You owe more gratitude than you are owed. In fact, you probably owe more gratitude that you could ever repay.
Think of it this way; when you go to buy a coffee, not only do you pay for it, you say thank you to your barista with a smile on your face. Both of those are actually an expression of gratitude. You are recognising with your money and your smile that the person has done something for you. Now look around your room. You’ve probably paid for most of the things you have around you.
But, have you said thank you to the people who wrote the books you read, who made the chair you sit on, who made the tables and shelves and bed you use everyday, who put together the phone and laptop you’re using right now? Have you personally said thank you to all those people.
Let’s look beyond people. In a world where there are so many things that could kill you at any moment, you being alive right now in this moment with all the stories you have experienced is a miracle in itself. Have you said thank you to the world for that. What about this infinite Universe? For you to be able to stand here and look out at the Stars and marvel at them, have you said thank you to the Universe?
What does Gratitude do for you?
You are not born with guarantees and the Universe does not owe you promises. Yet it conspires to keep you alive. The first thing that happens when you appreciate this is that you enjoy your life more. Gratitude is a immensely pleasant emotion.
Cultivating gratitude also help us with getting ready to give our life back when it is no longer ours to hold. When we are grateful for what we have had, we do not feel compelled to hold onto everything. We are able to let things go. And, reaching for fulfilment means being ready to let go.
Gratitude also helps us trust in our future. If you look back into your past with gratitude, you will look to your future with trust. If things have gone right in the past, you can trust that they will go right in the future. Trust is the virtue that grounds courage, and courage is what helps us rise to the occasion when it is terrifying to do so. Gratitude then lays the foundation for us to have the courage to rise to the best in ourselves. So then look at the past with gratitude and look to the future with trust.
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If you want to read more on the topic, take a look at Etsko’s book: The Two Sandals