For the purposes of this conversation, I’m going to call him Bob.
Bob is a man I have known for years now and someone I am glad to be able to call a friend. He is recently divorced and a traveling professional. Bob has found himself at a point in life where he has space to explore a deeper understanding of himself. The pursuit of a deeper understanding of self is something that has brought me great joy in my life so I’m always excited when we travel into these trails of conversation.
We like to have calls from time to time to discuss aspects of our experiences as human beings and men. We have shared some similar life experiences that make it easy for us to relate to and understand each other. We talk about the mundane day to day processes of setting ourselves up for success, be it nutritional or professional, as well as more existential questions about life, meaning/truth, and the journey forward in our human experience.
I am grateful for these calls not only because I get to feel like I have been able to help a friend by sharing my experiences and the work I have done, and continue to do, in the journey to further understand myself but also so that he can learn from my successes and failures. I am also grateful for these calls because I learn from him. Seeing him walk his own journey helps to illuminate unknown paths that may lie before me.
We stumbled upon a number of valuable topics today, but the one that sticks out in my mind the most is the topic of gratitude. Gratitude is a concept that has had a profound impact on my life. For me, choosing to approach life from a place of gratitude makes the trials and tribulations, which come my way, immeasurably easier to handle.
If you look it up in the English dictionary gratitude is defined as the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful. As a student of Buddhism, I have come to understand gratitude in the context of a student who has much to learn. The best way I can describe gratitude, as I understand it, is something that is cultivated and should be a habit without condition. We should have gratitude for all our experiences, without judgment, as something from which we can find a deeper understanding of our existence.
Bob and I were talking about the practice of gratitude. I told him that I like to start each day with an expression of gratitude because I have been given the opportunity to experience a new day, a new opportunity to bring joy to others, and another chance to try to further cultivate a better version of myself.
I asked him if he had ever done anything like this, and he told me that not only has he not ever practiced gratitude in this way but that he was uncertain of the fact if he has actually been able to truly experience gratitude.
Bob is a scholar of the Christian bible. Knowing this I posed the following question to him, “can you think of a time that Christ approached the topic of gratitude?”
He paused and thought about it for a minute before he answered. He then led with the story of the fish and loaves of bread. In this story, Jesus performs a miracle by feeding 5000 people from a small basket filled with five loaves of bread and two fish. In the story, before he started handing out the food to feed the masses of people, Christ looked to heaven and expressed gratitude. After this expression of gratitude, he was able to hand out enough food to feed the multitude of people.
My friend expressed to me that as he grew up, even to this current point in adulthood, that he has always hungered for more and more. This hunger was primarily for material wealth and to constantly be surrounded by people. We talked about how this hunger only leads to a desire for more and more and more. As we continued to discuss this hunger he expressed that he has never really allowed himself to feel gratitude for his success or more specifically he had not allowed himself to celebrate his successes. This lack of celebration, of gratitude, perpetuated the desire for more and more.
To me, the story of the fish and bread can be viewed as a pretty good allegory for how gratitude leads to abundance. Bob and I talked about the fact that abundance didn’t occur in the story until Christ expressed gratitude. In my experience, this is something that we can all experience, regardless of our faith, or lack thereof. The more you are able to truly express gratitude for what you have, the less you will hunger for more.
I challenged my friend to change his approach to how he views life and to make an effort to embrace gratitude as part of his journey towards becoming a more fully realized and happy man, partner, and professional. I’m proud to say that he was all in and we came up with some simple strategies to take toward changing his internal self-talk from a dialogue of hunger to a dialogue of abundance.
There are a number of ways one can approach this. One of my favorites is simply starting the day with a bit of gratitude meditation. This is very simple, and easier than it sounds. You take a few minutes, at the very start of your day, and quietly reflect on what you have to be grateful for. This is a good time to reflect on those people in your life that you are thankful for, your unique gifts, and your abilities that you are blessed with.
These journals are meant to dive deeper into those things that we are grateful for. These journal entries are not simply a list of what we are grateful for, but a deeper elaboration on one or two things that we have gratitude for. While journaling you should be doing so with purpose and the intent of cultivating happiness in yourself.
You are encouraged to think about how life would be without these things you’re grateful for. How would your life be different? How would it be lacking?
Be present and pay attention to what is happening not only to you, but around you, and how it impacts other people. Slow down and savor what life presents to you. There is unexpected joy in the tiniest of moments. Be it the laugh of a young child, the smile of a stranger, or the aroma of a perfect cup of coffee or plate of food. There is a lot for us to be grateful for in this life. If we simply take the time to soak it all in, we may just find ourselves in a place of overwhelming abundance.
Two of my favorites are simply stating gratitude to yourself and to the universe, and the other is starting the day with a gratitude journal. These are both as simple as they sound and can have a profound impact on how you interact with the rest of your day.
It’s hard to have a bad day when you start it by giving thanks for what you have.
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