Many wise and brilliant people, from spiritual teachers to scientists, agree that gratitude is the root of happiness. I have known this — intellectually, mentally, rationally — for a long time, but for years, I felt like there was something wrong with me because I rarely felt deep gratitude, especially not as a daily state of being. Gratitude was a platitude to be looked at and remembered once a year on thanksgiving, and perhaps on the rare occasion someone asked me or reminded me to be grateful. And I wasn't totally unaware — I was ashamed that with all the gifts I had in my life — financial “success”, freedom, support, a great family, friends and business — why didn't I feel grateful more often?
Then I started to explore the distinction of feeling grateful vs. BEING grateful — living in a state of gratitude at all times. How could I cultivate gratitude as a way of being, rather than just something I DID every so often? So, for the past several months I've been practicing gratitude, rather than waiting for it to arrive and “overtake” me spontaneously. This practice involves getting still, usually during my morning ritual, putting my hands on my heart and just breathing and focusing on generating the FEELING of gratitude — not being grateful for “stuff” but rather just tapping into the emotion of gratitude all by itself.
As you can probably guess, this has been profoundly impactful for me. My relationships have deepened, my sense of lack has lightened, and an abiding feeling of AWE at the beauty and sanctity of life. Without getting or having more “stuff” (in fact I have less stuff than ever, as I've been whittling down my life), I am happier.
One of my friends, mentors and colleagues, Ismael Cala, often asks the question, “How many years do you plan to be dead?” Of course, the answer is “Forever.” We’ll be dead forever, and we'll only be alive for a BRIEF moment in time. Right here, right now. When we pause each day and remember that simple truth, gratitude gets much easier, and ANY experiences we have — even the difficult, challenging and painful ones — become sacred, because they are part of this precious short life that we GET to live. It also becomes way easier to feel deeply grateful for all that we have right now, in this moment.
And so it is.