The key to happiness is gratitude. But, what does it mean to be grateful? Is it possible to be grateful for what you have, even when the heart desires more? The following post illustrates that gratitude is not dependent on the magnitude of materiality. Read it for the peace and happiness of your heart.
A few years ago, before I renounced, there was a cold wave in North India. Several incidents of homeless people dying from the cold were reported in the news. My father asked and inspired me to do my two cents worth. I felt grateful and inspired to do something.
Consequently, a senior manager in my company who was also a close friend of mine and I decided to distribute blankets to the needy. However, we did not want to just give them away to some organization. We wanted to ensure that they directly got in the hands of those who were in genuine need. We bought about fifteen dozen blankets, and we had an SUV that could stock more than seventy at a time. My friend, his sister, our driver, and I got in the vehicle at midnight. We started driving around the high streets of a major city, an industrial town.
The outside temperature, as indicated in the car, was three degrees centigrade. The street lights had a halo of fog around them as it was foggy, not dense, though. Even the stray dogs and the cows were hiding. It was all painfully quiet and cold. As we drove around, we saw heart-wrenching scenes. There were homeless people lying on the footpaths at different places.
Some had wrapped themselves in jute bags, some in flattened cardboard boxes, quite a few were draped in newspapers. The repertoire included the aged, the young, men and women, children, toddlers, and infants. Not even one was sleeping with their legs fully stretched; all were lying curled up to protect body heat. All four of us in the car had the heating on, but we were feeling guilty and shocked. We had seen things like that earlier; it was the first time, however, that we paid close attention.
We stepped out of the car and woke some people up to give them new blankets. Some were ecstatic, some cried, some thought we were the police who came to remove them from sleeping at a public place, some thought it was a joke, few were drunk and could not get up, some wanted more than one blanket. No one asked us for money or other things. They seemed very contented to get a blanket.
Their clothes were soiled and tattered, their hair unruly and mostly matted, their bodies dark and smudged in the dirt, years of suffering and sweat had permanently settled on their bodies, but their eyes had an expression of peace and acceptance. Further, they all bore smiles of gratitude and contentment as they got their blankets.
Some immediately unwrapped the blanket and donned it. It was gratifying beyond words to see them do that. Some made it their pillow; they either did not want to use it right away because it was new, or they might even sell in the gray market the following day. That was beside the point. We did our karma, we thought.
There was one particular scene beyond bear. Some people came running towards our car as they saw from a distance that we were giving blankets. In that group was a girl; she was physically handicapped. She tried to rush like the rest fearing the car might leave, or we might run out of blankets. While she was trying to run, she stumbled and fell down. We almost cried, seeing her state.
As she got up and came closer, she seemed to be mentally challenged as well. We could not endure the scene. We did our part and quickly got going. I never went out again to distribute blankets as I did not have the heart to see such suffering. My friend and his sister gave away the remaining on another night.
We came home, and as I lay my head on the pillow, snuggled up in my quilt, I was looking up at the roof. It was a furnished room; it was heated; it had an attached washroom, everything to make it comfortable. It all seemed like a dream. “Wow! I have a roof over my head,” I thought, “what good karma must have I done to deserve this.” Those people kept flashing in front of my eyes.
I could not help but think that not having a roof was one thing, but what about all the other needs? Where must they go to attend nature’s call, they had no place to cook, nowhere to store their utensils or stove, no place to even keep the blankets, in fact, they had no place to wash their clothes, where would they generally go to get drinking water, did they brush their teeth, or could they even afford to do that, they had no place called home, there was no where they could go after a tiring day, that and a million other questions boggled and tired my mind out.
I thought how little one needs to be grateful. That, how gratitude is not dependent on the magnitude of materiality, it is not dependent on what all you must have, but simply a state of mind, an expression of the heart, a commitment to tolerance, a resolution to be happy, a feeling of peace, a sense of contentment, an emotion of fulfillment.
How much do you need to be grateful in life?
If you believe that in order to be grateful, you must have certain things in your life, you will always find it hard to be thankful because no matter how much you may have, there will still be just as much more you will want to have.
Work towards what gives you joy, but be grateful for all that you have.
When you are grateful, an invisible blanket of peace covers you; it makes you glow, makes you happy, makes you strong, makes you warm.
On the path of emotional transformation, the first and foremost emotion is gratitude. To be grateful. Like all other habits, this can be learned, practiced, cultivated, nurtured. Read here – to learn the actual practice of gratitude.
Today happens to be Mother’s day as well in certain parts of the world; go on! Tell your mother how grateful you are for all that she has done for you.
Art of Meditation
Free yourself from suffering and live life to the fullest. Learn the yogic technique of meditation in 4 days (and master it over a lifetime)
We all have things to be grateful for no matter what. Right this minute, you could draw up a long list of things to be grateful for. The following insights will help you understand gratitude and how little we need to be happy.
Things to be grateful for:
How to be grateful for what you have?
Let us begin with understanding the practice of gratitude. Gratitude is one of the most profound emotions. If you are grateful you become loving, blissful, peaceful, and calm automatically. Remaining calm or being at peace, to be able to love anyone and everyone are the natural outcomes of a grateful soul.
The actual practice:
Do the following for an initial period of forty days and then adopt it and make it part of your life:
1. Read out your first list of every day in the morning and before going to bed every night.
2. For the next forty days, express your gratitude to at least one person on the second list every day. It could be a simple email across thanking them genuinely, a phone call, a little gesture of treating them to a cup of coffee, sending flowers across, or anything else you can do to express yourself. During the period of practice, you must make someone feel special every day with your gesture of gratitude, be that in words or actions.
3. Mark a simple yes/no journal entry or a detailed one every night ticking that you did not falter. If you miss it any day, reset the counter and start again.
Make two lists of things to be grateful for. Read in detail the practice of gratitude –here.
What are things to be grateful for?
Why just an occasion, let’s celebrate life. Your life is a celebration, you are a celebration.
Gratitude is one of the greatest ways of celebration that I know of. Observing an occasion is merely a social excuse. When you are grateful, every day becomes a celebration. When you no longer need a reason — religious or otherwise — to celebrate, every moment is a celebration, it becomes a momentous occasion. Beyond the labels, the dates, the days, there is something profound, deeper, better, greater that exists within you and all around you. It deserves your attention, your time, it is worth celebrating. Life. Read more here.
Why is it important to be grateful to be on the spiritual path?
Due to our upbringing and the way our brain functions, we can’t stop judging people. It comes to us naturally. We look at a man lying by the roadside and we believe he must be drunk, whereas he might have just suffered a heart attack. Based on race, appearance, clothes, speech and so on, we quickly label the other person. This unwholesome way of making sense of our surroundings and people around us is non-spiritual and unreasonable.
If it is spiritual progress you aspire for, the virtues of compassion and gratitude, of empathy and humility have to be inculcated and practiced.
There is no reason for us to forsake our goodness, to not count our blessings, to not help others, to not be gentle. What a blessed life we have, let’s allow others to dip into our joys and resources. The path of goodness is most rewarding for the one who seeks enlightenment.
Read more on the four truths of human existence here.
What are the benefits of being grateful?
If I were to answer this one line – Gratitude is the simplest path to happiness.
In my view, there are four principles of happiness and if these are inculcated in your lifestyle will give you peace and happiness. The first principle is gratitude. Unless you are grateful for absolutely everything in your life, you can’t be happy. Not just all the good things but everything. There are probably things that don’t make sense but they are there because they have a role to play in our lives. Maybe they are to train us, make us stronger, make us better, make us question. Everything, every incident, event or experience is there for a reason. We all have plenty to be grateful for.
Listen to the full discourse by Om Swami here, and gain insight on how to be at peace by showing gratitude.
What does it mean to be grateful?
No matter how dire the circumstances, mostly, life is a blessing. There are only two ways to lead your life: you can either live it like it’s a blessing or it isn’t. Either way, the most important thing to remember is that no one’s life has ever got better by complaining about it. Life doesn’t hear our complaints and that’s often a good thing because the mind is always complaining about one thing or the other anyway. It would be impossible to function if life actually started listening to our whining.
Whatever be your past, wherever you were, could or should have been, the truth is you are here, now. This is it. This is life.
If you want to see how your life is a blessing, simply take a notepad and write down what’s good in your life. There has to be something you like about your life. Write it down. It’ll evoke positive emotions of gratitude and admiration in you so you may see the brighter side.
Read more on the four truths of human existence here.
Apparently, the list of things to be grateful for includes life. Why should I be grateful for life?
This life is not about getting to some destination, it is about the journey. The joy is in the journey and not in the destination. When you are grateful, the journey becomes a lot more enjoyable. Know more about the emotion of gratitude and what does it mean to be grateful in this discourse by Om Swami – here.