I was reminded at a class over the weekend with James Baraz that gratitude is a source of deep contentment and well-being.
It’s such a gift to be able to take in good things (even when your entire life may not be perfect) and to relish in a feeling of appreciation. (This last part is key!).
Even though I studied positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, where gratitude was a primary teaching underscored by many well-respected professors, I struggle with maintaining an attitude of gratitude. I tend toward complaining about little things or noticing what’s not quite right. As an example, the place at which I stayed over the weekend was quaint and cozy, with every amenity one could possibly ask for. But not according to my mind… the bed was too soft, parking was a chore, and there wasn’t the right kind of 1/2 and 1/2 for my coffee. (I know, first world problems.)
I giggled in amusement and humility as I witnessed these thoughts. Thankfully, I was able to bring myself back to the goodness right in front of me. The fact that I had functioning hands to hold a toothbrush, delicious tasting toothpaste, and running water. The fact that I was alive in that moment to witness my life unfolding, no matter how mundane the circumstance.
When it boils down to it, most of us are really lucky to live the life we do. It’s not that we don’t struggle or face stressful times. But as Helen Keller said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming it.”
We need to see both suffering and goodness, rather than letting suffering be the filter through which we see and experience everything. Seeing goodness is just as crucial to our happiness and resilience as having the right tools to work with suffering.
I hope you’ll join me in making a commitment to practice waking up to goodness. You can start right now. See if there’s one thing happening in your life that you can appreciate. Soak in feelings of appreciation from head to toe. Really know goodness for what it is. As this is a practice, we’ll all have moments of forgetfulness and inattention, but the cool thing is that the more we practice, the more we learn to radiate the goodness and well-being that’s been right inside all along.
If you have reservations about whether or not you can change, you might check out this clip by James’ mom, Confessions of a Jewish Mother. As James says, “If my 91-year old mother can change, anyone can!”
Also, if you want to spend more time learning practices that awaken gratitude, consider joining us for our upcoming Daylong Retreat on Saturday, December 3.