Sometimes when we feel like we are at the lowest points in our life, it seems impossible to be grateful for anything. How can anyone find anything good about misfortune or tragedy?
Japanese author Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki writes of a zen teacher telling the story of a monk who was being chased by a tiger and climbs over the edge of a cliff, hanging on a vine to avoid the tiger. Looking down, the monk finds a lot more tigers down below waiting to pounce on him if he landed. Caught almost literally between a rock and a hard place, he sees a strawberry on the vine, smiles and thankfully reaches out and pops the strawberry in his mouth.
What has the strawberry go to do with the danger the monk was in? Nothing and everything. What it tells us is that the monk was living in the moment. He was not so consumed by the danger that lay before or behind him that the strawberry became insignificant. He was present enough to notice the ripe juiciness of the strawberry. He didn't lose his appetite over his danger.
That's what gratitude does. Gratitude is like a pair of spectacles we wear that help us focus on what we have and blurs out what we don't have. It opens our eyes to see that there always is something to be thankful for.
I haven't always seen things that way in my times of despair, but when I have practiced having the attitude of gratitude I have seen the results in amazing ways. My problems have seemed to recede to the background and I have been able to be present and enjoy my moments.
Holding on to what's wrong in your current life situation (not your life), is like having a clenched fist. You cannot accept any goodness because you're closed. Gratitude is like letting go and opening up. In that moment you become alive, open to all the amazing sensations and nuances of your life.
From the zen teacher's perspective in Suzuki's story, "You can't be alive if you are living in fear, and if you're living in fear you can't see and experience life; the magnificence of your life that is right in front of you in each moment."
Try it and watch the goodness come flowing in.
Do you have any gratitude stories? Don't keep them to yourself! Share them here.