...meaning it is something else all together! Have you ever noticed how selective we humans can be when it comes to expressing gratitude? We glibly say thanks to store clerks and bank tellers with little attention paid to what we're really saying. When something good happens to us it's not uncommon to hear someone say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you," usually with eyes upturned to the heavens. What about when things don't go our way? What about when we're having a rotten day and nothing seems to be going our way? Where is our gratitude then?
Gratitude is not so much about what happens to us. It is more about how we happen to the world. It is a way of life, not just a passing sentiment. Most of the people who read The New Times know that our thoughts, feelings, and actions make an impression on the world around us. It's one of the first things we learn when we begin to study life from the metaphysical viewpoint.
For those who still doubt that they influence the world around them, try this simple experiment. Work yourself into a great mood. Think happy, prosperous thoughts, hum a lively tune in your head. Now walk into a bank, store, or meeting with a big smile on your face. Hold yourself in a confident manner, shoulders thrown back, walk with a bit of a jig in your step. Now watch how people respond to you. The whole room will light up just because you've arrived. People will be glad to see you. Now do the opposite. Work yourself into a lousy mood. Think dark, unhappy thoughts of lack, deprivation, and misery. Slouch, drag your feet, furrow your brow, frown. Walk into a bank, store, or meeting and watch what happens. It will be as if you're lugging a dark storm cloud with you. People will be hesitant, repelled, and won't be drawn to talk with you.
Our overall mental and emotional state impacts the very air around us. What kind of impact do you think you can have if you're able to maintain an atmosphere of gratitude? Another word for this is appreciation. Live your life with a sense of appreciating what it gives you and you'll create a sense of wellness and wholeness about yourself that life can't help but respond to. What about the ratty days? What about when things don't go our way? This happens to everybody. The best of the best have days when things are out of sync, when things are not going the way we wish they would. There is always something to appreciate, even in the worst of situations.The kind of gratitude I'm talking of here, though, goes way beyond being grateful for individual things, people, or events. It is an overall way of living your life that incorporates appreciation into the very cells of your body. It is having a zest for living, a basic sense that all is well, a profound connection with life itself.
We have a new puppy, Raven, at our house, and she appreciates life with a deep sense of gratitude. I love watching her try new foods. She takes the tidbit she's given, rolls it around in her mouth, throws her head back, and smacks loudly while she chews it up. Her face is filled with contentment and satisfaction. When she explores life on this planet by romping through the house trying to play with the cats (who, of course, are from a different planet), she sparkles with appreciation for this fun diversion (don't worry, the cats have fun, too!) Sometimes Raven's puppy enthusiasm gets her into trouble with my adult dog, Magic, who proceeds to growl fiercely and pin Raven to the floor. Her piercing puppy screams would make you think she'd run into Godzilla! Two seconds later, all is well and the two of them are playing like long-lost buddies again.
We need to be more like puppies by throwing ourselves into our daily experiences with greater abandon. We've become far too dependent on outer circumstances allowing them to dictate how we feel rather than the other way around. When Raven gets up in the morning, she is filled with joy. She stretches and yawns, wags her tail, and smiles. She's ready for another exciting day. Never mind that today will most likely be much like yesterday was. Never mind that she'll hear the word "no" at least a million times in the next few hours (far more than you or I). To her, every day is filled with joy and wonder, just because it is. Even when something terrible happens, life continues to offer fun and mystery.
How can we return to this more innocent state of joyful appreciation? By slowing down and paying attention. By making the conscious choice to be present for our own lives. Most of us run on automatic. We get up and get going and before we know it, it's bedtime and the day is gone. We have our routines, we have our goals, and we have our outer focus. What we don't have many times is the ability to be present. Being present means paying attention to what we're doing and to what's going on around us. It means listening when someone is speaking to us. It means knowing what we're eating and drinking while we're eating and drinking, not ten minutes later when we realize the meal is over! When we're present to life we'll find that there is a natural state of appreciation within us that we lost touch with years ago.
We all have an inner Raven, an innocent being inside who knows how to feel the joy in the simplest things in life. This part of us lives with constant wonder, in a perpetual state of appreciation. It is up to us to invite her or him into our daily life. Find something playful that is easy to carry with you or to wear, maybe a small bell or ribbon. Let this object be your reminder to let loose and get into life. Every time you see or hear it, remind yourself to be present to what you're doing and let yourself feel appreciation for that instant.The more we let ourselves delight in our lives and be grateful for everything in them, the more life will smile upon us and give us even more to appreciate.
November is the month for giving thanks. Start today, continue this month, and then don't ever stop. Like Raven, deeply savor everything life puts before you. If it makes you laugh, laugh from your gut. If it makes you cry, let the tears pour out. Then jump back up on your feet and go find a cat to chase!