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“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” ― Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
How often do you find yourself thinking about what you don’t have? Or that life will get better if you acquire something else, whether it’s time, money, opportunities, relationships or material objects? When money runs out or gets low, we often turn immediately to thoughts of wanting more. We convince ourselves that life is unjust without that extra chunk of money or that coveted lifestyle upgrade. When we find ourselves in an unhappy relationship, we complain and then yearn for someone else. We end up living the old adage "the grass is greener on the other side," which in turn can feel like a curse. Such power given over to external things can make it seem as if the sky is crumbling down when we keep searching for more.
Who isn’t guilty of this trap? In our consumer-driven culture, it is easy to get into the habit of an almost delusional feeling of lack where we obsess over what’s missing. Over my life I have experienced the entire spectrum of being with and without. I’ve made a decent amount of money, enjoyed many a material comfort, and then rebounded to the other side where I had barely a penny to my name. Strangely, no matter what the situation was, I sometimes felt that ever-present sense of lack. Joy would often fluctuate with the accumulation (or absence) of things in my life. If the bank account started to empty, then so did my spirit. If things were going wrong, I couldn't always see what was going right.
After years of enduring this yo-yo of emotions, I began to realize that the accumulation of external things was not what mattered but rather how I made myself feel inside. Over time I developed a far more profound and calming mantra which states that "I am truly grateful." I am by no means perfect at this yet but my new perspective is to be grateful for what IS in my life so that I am not blinkered by thoughts of what isn’t. And the things I am invariably most appreciative of are not material things. I am grateful for the stability and flux of existence, for companionship, opportunities, good health, love, the diversity of life around me, as well as all the lessons I am taught in every situation.
The importance of gratitude is not so much that it helps get rid of our wants, but rather it allows us to adjust our response and appreciation for what we do have in our lives. This might seem like a trivial point. We often hear people say "be grateful for what you have" but how many of us ever truly embrace that practice? I have learned that true gratitude is about acceptance. It is about letting go of external things to make us happy and enjoying life for what it is. It is about living in the present moment and not worrying about the past or the future. It is therefore a very simple but difficult practice, especially when we are taught otherwise in a society driven by media and advertising. Whether we live in a tiny shack or a five bedroom mansion, true happiness comes from appreciating our circumstances no matter what they are.
Gratitude itself has healing power. It unblocks negative thought patterns and behaviours and elevates the mood indefinitely. It raises our energetic and spiritual vibrations and is therefore a good meditative practice. We should take more time to listen to what our preoccupations are telling us and make gratitude a living part of our everyday thinking. Once we stop to take an inventory on everything we have, life becomes more fulfilling and there is no longer the need to want something else. When you are able to find gratitude, you will also find your spirit.