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Gratitude - Musings and Meditations

Updated: Feb 19

"If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is 'thank you', it will be enough."

Meister Eckhart

Photo: Filip Van Kerckhoven

Something that I've been quite preoccupied with over the past few weeks is the concept (or rather the practice) of gratitude.

Gratitude is something I have had my attention on for some time. Over the past few years I have developed a kind of habit of inserting a conscious moment of gratitude a few times a day. In the morning and in the evening, but also several times during the day.

And as I do this more and more, the awareness grows that every single moment is worthy of some form of gratitude.

There is so much to be grateful for, every day. We may know that with our heads, but as with everything it is quite another thing to really feel it.

It is so: any impulse or experience that is constant disappears after a while from our attention, from our awareness and appreciation. We can only really perceive something in contrast to another experience.

When our grandparents could make water run from a faucet for the first time simply by turning a lever, it must have been a real source of wonder and joy and gratitude. Even more so if that water was warm, too. Now turning on the tap fill the bathtub is something that will rarely, if ever, stir our hearts with a wave of gratitude and joy. It has become ‘normal’, taken for granted.

Replace ‘water from the tap’ with just about any facet of our rich Western industrialized world, and you get a picture of a society in which gratitude does not really occupy a central place in awareness. A well-stocked  refrigerator, a big house with central heating and all possible electronic gadgets, one or two cars in front of the door, several pairs of shoes and closets containing more than we can ever wear,...

Everything that seemed a distant dream to our grandparents or their parents, we have all of it and more.

But how much gratitude do we really experience on a daily basis? And I mean REALLY, not just a fleeting instant,

The conscious and daily practice of gratitude is a self-reinforcing process: as I become more attentive to gratitude, I also become much more aware of all that I am grateful for: the many big and small things in every day's life that are wonderful, but that we easily forget in the hustle and bustle and daily rush, or that we give too little attention to because we so easily focus all our attention on the problems or challenges we experience. And because of that increased attention on gratitude, I generally feel much more present and alive in the moment, and more observant and alert. And that in turn makes it easier to be grateful.... it's a vicious circle that leads to ever more well-being and...gratitude.

But I know: sometimes we go through things that seemingly leave little room for gratitude: illness, job loss, work-related stress, problems with the kids or even the death of a loved one or friend or family member. Especially in such circumstances, practicing gratitude can seem an almost impossible challenge. Yet I have felt and experienced reasons for gratitude even in such circumstances. Whether we can experience such aspects during very painful periods also depends on the perspective we have on the whole process, and how we choose to be present in that process - because to a large extent that remains a choice.

And practicing gratitude is like exercising muscles: the more you do it, the stronger and bigger the muscles become, and the exercise can also grow and develop further in that self-reinforcing process. I can only heartily recommend it as a daily practice!

As to how I specifically do that every day, I want to write a longer post another time.

Any stimulus or experience that is constant disappears from our focus and attention and awareness after a while.

So does the experience of living on a planet that is extremely hospitable to the phenomenon of life, where for over ten thousand years an almost perfect temperature and climate has provided the ideal conditions for our development of the phenomenon of ‘civilization’ (a word I always put in quotation marks because I believe we have not yet reached the stage of true civilization), a planet so rich in such an abundant variety of unimaginably beautiful life forms engaged in such an improbably complex and harmonious dance that leads to ever more splendor and complexity. A planet where every square inch of soil or water is teeming with life - one tablespoon of fertile soil is home to some six billion microorganisms, all contributing to the fertility of that soil. I've mentioned that fact before, but it never ceases to amaze me how our Earth is so full of life (and how we need to nurture and protect that life so much).

And fertile soil brings me to what I now want to feel more gratitude for, consciously and slowly and with my full attention: the food that is on my plate every day.

But that's for another musing.

I wish you a wonderful day, and a moment of gratitude. I am already trying to extend some of that gratitude every day to the planet on which I am privileged to live. Truly the coolest planet in our solar system. If you doubt that, try Venus. It is 800 degrees Fahrenheit there and raining sulfuric acid. No, anyone born on our planet has won the lottery because of that alone.

All the best, and until the next episode.


Photo: Filip Van Kerckhoven


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