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Gratitude Medicine

[April 2023 – Dharma Center Mindfulness Tip] 

Gratitude is wonderful medicine. One should drink it daily when happy, and have an extra dose or three when not.

But please do not debase gratitude with thoughts along the lines of: “you should feel grateful because someone else has it worse.”

This approach has an ugly energy behind it: egotism.

Comparing our situation to someone else’s to make ourselves feel better only results in greater suffering. When the surface-level, fuzzy feeling of “oh I should be happy it’s not worse” wears off, the realization that “no, I actually do feel crummy” eventually rises. Then we find ourselves feeling invalidated by not acknowledging our pain, guilty for using someone else to make ourselves feel better, or numb because either of these realizations is too much to bear. We can push down and bypass feelings for only so long as we have the energy to do it.

Instead, stay fully present with your experience. Your feelings and thoughts exist and are therefore valid. If there is pain or suffering, anger or remorse, name it. Look at it and your relationship to it. Notice where and how it is showing up in your body, your mind, and your life – right now. Once you have accepted what is happening (and this is not always easy), then seek one small piece of gratitude in this present moment.

What Is Gratitude?

Gratitude is a feeling of deep appreciation. Gratitude means to feels thankful for what is present. It might be for something as simple as being able to take a breath … even if that breath hurts, you can inhale and exhale. This is the basis of gratitude for Life itself.

Stop there and embrace deeply the feeling of gratitude. No comparisons needed.

(If you cannot cope with the situation you find yourself in, reach out to a therapist or doctor or friend to help you be here in the present. Accept input and suggestions to deal with whatever struggle you have to go through, knowing you will need to make the decisions on what to do next. Sometimes we all need an ally to help us see the options before us.)

Gratitude, even a tiny dose, is powerful medicine.  By leaning into where we are hooked, we discover we are much more than our current struggle. It is sometimes painful to be real, to accept with humility our current fate. However, if we drink gratitude, if we consciously reach into our mind and find one small thing for which we feel a true deep appreciation, our mind shifts. And along with that mental shift, everything changes. Suddenly doors we didn’t even know existed begin to open.

You are worthy of gratitude, and you are beautiful, just as you are right now.

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Published inBuddha Lessons / Mindfulness