Choosing Gratitude

Earlier this week someone knocked on my car window.

It startled me, and I looked up to see a young man with blonde hair and a backpack peering at me with concern.

“Are you okay?” he asked through the glass.

I’d been sitting in my parked car, crying about something, but the stranger’s unexpected entry into my private moment shook me out of it. I pictured telling this kid my problems which, outside the inner sanctum of my car, seemed to loosen their hold on me, and I realized that I was, most definitely, okay. Which is what I told the thoughtful stranger, who smiled, waved, and walked off.

Thirty minutes, some fresh air, and one peppermint hot chocolate from Starbucks later, the details of my life still looked the same, but inside my attention had shifted, and I felt grateful to be right where I was—for the blue sky, golden leaves, feel of a warm cup in my hands.

Gratitude isn’t about the details of your life—how perfectly your reality reflects your dreams, because hopefully it does, or will soon, but even when life has tossed you some curveballs, gratitude is a feeling you can choose anytime.

Like river water through a dam, gratitude flows when we’re open. And we get to decide how open we want to be.

So how to release the floodgates of thankfulness? Or at least turn up the pressure?

Give yourself a moment.

The philosopher Seneca said, “True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future.” But we can’t enjoy the present, unless we are present. So before today distracts you, give yourself a moment.

It doesn’t matter where—lying in bed; standing in the shower; on the back step; alone in the kitchen before anyone else is up; drinking a cup of tea; walking the dog; in the car.

It doesn’t have to take long either. Just long enough to take a deep breath, or two. Close your eyes if you like. Allow the chatter in your head to quiet down. Let go of your To-Dos. Forget about what’s next.

Just be here now.

Usually when I quiet down I hear a word from within; a good-feeling word that floats to the surface—like ease, joy, laughter—and I grab ahold of it like a buoy and let ease, or joy, or laughter, or whatever the word, become my mantra for the day.

Or maybe, when you quiet down for a moment, you hear nothing but silence, which is a gift too. Carry that kernel of peacefulness with you, that inner calm, and you’ll feel more present to all of the beauty around you today.

Sure, we can always find reasons to cry, complain, or worry. And yet, have you noticed that some people, in spite of truly tough stuff, are surprisingly joyful? Or maybe it’s not surprising at all. Maybe they’ve learned that life is imperfect, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful, and we can choose to notice the beauty.

Eckhart Tolle writes, “You don’t need to own anything to feel abundant, although if you feel abundant consistently things will almost certainly come to you. Abundance comes only to those who already have it. It sounds almost unfair, but of course it isn’t. It is a universal law. Both abundance and scarcity are inner states that manifest as your reality.”

So today don’t just think about gratitude, but “drop into it” as my yoga instructor says.

Open the dam and let gratitude wash over you.

Feel the abundance that’s already your life.

There’s more peace, beauty, and love in our world than we can ever imagine—here’s wishing you the courage to choose that.