by Catherine Madsen
Bliss Crafter, Austin Yoga Tree
“Gratitude is like love or fresh air – you can’t get too much of it.”
Buddha taught that every human birth is precious and worthy of gratitude. In one of His most well known analogies, He explains that receiving a human birth is more rare than the chance that a blind turtle floating in the ocean would stick its head through a small hoop. The Buddha emphasized that there is so much in life to be grateful for, including, and most importantly, life itself.
Gratitude, by definition, is the quality of being thankful, readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Gratitude is the small moments throughout your day where you reflect and feel thankful. Gratitude is the random of act of kindness you perform for a stranger. Gratitude is appreciating the good and bad moments in life, and being thankful for both. This might seem simple enough, however; we can also define gratitude in terms of what it is not.
Gratitude is not comparing your circumstances to the circumstances of others. When we compare, we are either putting ourselves above or below another person. If we need to devalue a fellow human in order to feel grateful about our own life that is not true gratitude. Similarly, if we degrade ourselves, there is no gratitude at all.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Gratitude is not about ignoring or sugar coating negative experiences. You can’t have good days if you never have bad; it is necessary to embrace the darkness so we can fully embrace the light. For example, you may find yourself stuck in traffic from time to time. An improper way to express gratitude would be to think, “I am not enjoying this traffic but I am thankful for it. A better way to be grateful would be, “I am stuck in traffic and this is not ideal. At least I have a means of transportation and somewhere to go.”
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” – Buddha
Gratitude is about finding perfect moments in our less-than-perfect lives. Gratitude is about finding something to smile about when all we want to do is cry. Gratitude is about persevering through the lowest lows so that we can bask in the highest highs. Gratitude is an everyday practice, because remember, practice, not perfection.
How to Make a Gratitude Jar
The principle behind a gratitude jar is that by writing down all the things that we are thankful for, it will become easier to naturally be grateful in our daily lives.