Please pardon the sloppiness of this post, but I am not functioning well. I might have mentioned some time previously (I’m not even linking to a previously written blog post. That’s how crazy tired I am) that I have low B12 and that I need 8+ hours of sleep etc. etc. so I’m not really able to function well. But this blog post is important enough to write, even in my incoherent state of mind. Oh, I think I remembered the blog I wrote…
Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about “the most important feeling in life”. Happiness and contentment are both admirable goals (or rather, sustained states of being), but they’re not always easy to access. When life punches you in the face, sometimes it’s hard to smile about it. I’ve recently recognised another worthy contender, which I believe is gratitude. You see, by my logic if you’re grateful for something (really, heartfeltly grateful), it’s much harder to focus on the negatives. Note that “negatives” aren’t inherently bad things, it’s just the focusing and obsessing on them that becomes problematic. This manifests as complaining, usually about things that really don’t matter in the slightest.
I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say that I complain a lot. Most of my “problems” are so insignificant they’re not even worth treating as problems. Maybe inconveniences at best (A ha! A link to zenpencils.com. It seems I am returning to form). Honestly, I think the problem is that life is too easy, that we are too comfortable, and so I obsess over the pain of stubbing my toe because I have forgotten to compare it to the pain of seeing my own bones. It’s kind of like how people discriminate against minor things like skin and hair and eyes and lifestyle because they’re so comfortable with their own routine that anything that challenges them is treated as threatening.
Gratitude, then, is the antithesis to this tomfoolery. It is the deliberate choice (for all moments are full of such choices, whether we are aware of making them or not) to appreciate what we have rather than whinge about what we don’t have. And, my friends, we have a craptonne. That’s one of my more technical phrases to describe “a whole lot”. This lesson was surprisingly profound on gashuku when I had injured my knee halfway up a mountain, and limped the rest of the way up and all of the way down it. Despite the jarring pain every other step, the swearing and the crying out and the guilt of slowing everyone down, I did not complain (or at least, I did not focus too much on the pain, even though it was right with me in that present moment). Instead I felt a peculiar calmness, and an immense humbleness (if such a paradox makes sense). Despite the inconvenience and the immediacy of the pain, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude. “I’m so grateful that I have friends to keep me company on this mountain.” “I’m so grateful I have water in my bag to drink on a hot day.” “The view is so beautiful up here. I am privileged to witness it.”
I don’t know how or why I accessed that kind of gratitude in a challenging and painful part of my life, but it’s something I aspire to again. Today, right now, I make the choice not to focus on the petty things. I will not focus on how tired I am, but instead be truly grateful for a cup of mango green tea and a soft bed to lie in. I will choose to use this amazing gift of technology to talk to a friend in need, and to help improve the Young and Well’s research projects. I will be kind to my mother, and spend time in the sunshine, and I will try harder not to waste this precious gift of life which could be extinguished literally at any moment. It is a precious and fragile thing. I will try to remember what it is like to know you will die the next time you sleep.
I know it’s been done before, but please indulge me. Leave a comment below, or write it down in a notepad, or talk to someone about it. What sort of things are you grateful for today? Can you name five things right now, that are heartfelt and genuine? I’d love to hear about it if you can.
All the best.
EDIT: Turns out that the science behind gratitude confirms all of the above: it improves our wellbeing physically, emotionally, spiritually, in our relationships and in pretty much every aspect of life. Check out SuperBetter if you want to start practicing your own gratitude exercises (it’s in the Power Pack section where you can access the “Gratitude Quests”).