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The importance of gratitude

Posted by markdohle , 06 January 2013 · 473 views

The importance of gratitude

I have often read over the years how important it is to be grateful, to take time and count ones blessings.  One day I was in a whining, self absorbed mood.  A good friend with whom I was sharing this with asked me to stop for a short time and look around me, to see, and in that seeing to be grateful.  At first I was irritated, I was having such a good time feeling sorry for myself and did not like being disturbed from my narcissistic ramblings.   When he saw my rather annoyed stare at him, he gently smiled and told me to relax and refocus.  I frowned, then reconsidered, took a deep breath and tried to do what he requested.  It was difficult for me to turn away from my self pity, sort of like trying to disconnect from a tar pit, but slowly I was able to untangle myself.

“So now what I asked; he responded.  “Just be aware of what you have, what is before you, your gifts, where you live, your friends, your family, your health. The simple fact that you can walk, breathe freely, think, read and laugh the fact that you exist, the gift of that, to simply exist.  Problems will always be there, at times serious problems that can drag you inward in ways that blind you from seeing what you already have”.  It is not that simple I retorted in anger and he laughed and said.  “You sound like me when I am in a mood”.

He left soon after that and I pondered what he told me.  Of course it was nothing new, this kind of thing is written and spoken about so much that it has become to sound like a cliché.  Yet is it?  I did look around me after my friend left me.  Saw where I was, thought about the good things in my life, the giftedness of it all, and started to feel better.  My problem was still there, but I was able to see it in its proper perspective.  It was something that will perhaps be part of my life for years to come, but it was a part, not a central theme.

Perhaps in the end it is about perspective.

Most people go through really bad times in their lives.  For some it is one thing after another and can be a threat to ones well being and even life.  I would say that we all need to be listened to in a compassionate manner from time to time, just as we all need to be reminded that there is more to life that our problems and sufferings, as urgent as they may be.

These events are just as much a part of life as those areas of our lives that bring us peace and joy and at times healing.  The good parts can be taken for granted, since what does not pain us does not have to be dealt with.  Pain, suffering and our many problems seems to be a wake up call to deal with reality on a different level.  We feel like we are being tested, and perhaps we are.  In any case how we respond is important and it is good to develop a way of looking at life that will help us.

A healthy thought out faith (or philosophical path), allows the one who practices it, to face life directly without the need to turn left or right, to ways of existing that only make our lives more complicated and actually increase our problems and sufferings.  Or if the way is lost, it allows a way back to inner balance and healing.  Perhaps when Jesus said that worry not about tomorrow, today has enough problems to deal with, was talking about that….in other words, deal with today; see what is before you and trust.

To enjoy life when things are good takes no interior focus and discipline.
To be aware of what one has and to be thankful when things are going badly
requires mindfulness and inner restraint.