I was raised to believe that the natural state of being was, among other things, gratitude. It’s something I have worked to cultivate in my life for as long as I can remember, keeping gratitude journals and trying to view every moment as an opportunity. But, as most of us know, practicing gratitude daily can be difficult.
For me, living gratefully is more than remembering to thank people, the universe, God for the positive things in my life. Truly living a life of gratitude also means being grateful for the turmoil, the lessons, the opportunities to grow. This is the part that is the hardest for me. This is where I often get stuck.
Being an intense person, I feel everything with a depth that can be hard to explain at times, and even harder for those around me to tolerate. When events in my life throw me off-balance, when I get sucked into the chaos that can define the day, my intensities will often get the better of me, casting me into a rather depressed state. It isn’t really depression per se, more that existential depression that can define those of us who approach life from an intense point of view. When this happens it is hard for me to find something to feel grateful about. It is hard for me to see the difficulties as opportunities for growth. It is hard for me to know that the depths of pain I am feeling in the moment are setting the stage for unbound joy that will come if I remain open to it.
So, how do I eventually come to a place of gratitude after wallowing in my depths? How to I again find my equilibrium? The answer, for me, involves staying open. By that I mean that I have to achieve and maintain a state of being open to life. I achieve this through meditation and contemplation, as well as a gratitude journal.
Now I’ll admit, when life is hard, you know…REALLY HARD…all of that goes to heck in a handbasket. I mean, seriously, it’s darn near impossible to remain open to everything life has to offer when you are feeling like you’ve been repeatedly run over by various buses.
It is at these times that I turn to my gratitude journal and focus on one or two things EVERY DAY that I can be thankful for. I have found that the very act of shifting my attention toward gratitude, even if only for a short period of time, is enough to drag me from the depths of my wallowing and reorient me to a place of gratitude.
So the next time you are stuck, feeling the pains of life a little too intensely, shift your focus and think about the things that fill you with gratitude. Find a way to be open to what life is trying to show you. In doing so, the pain will dissipate your heart will open.
Do you live a life of gratitude? Is it something you can do even when things are hard?