In my last post, I wrote about letting go, but more specifically, about the fear that so often accompanies it. I wrote about the ways in which we allow fear to block our feelings…to shut down our heart, determined to keep us stuck instead of moving forward with our lives. Sadly, by cutting ourselves off from our own hearts, we often overlook one of our most important allies of the heart – gratitude. Gratitude for lessons learned along the way, gratitude for life’s teachers, and gratitude for life itself.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, gratitude is defined as: being thankful; readiness to return kindness. It originates from the Latin word, gratus: to be grateful. A simple word, evoking positive thoughts…positive energy. But how do we apply this to our everyday lives? Is it something you feel when something good happens to you, or an entire way of being? Can we learn to live all of the moments of our lives with ‘an attitude of gratitude’?
Setting aside principles of logic and religious dogma, I subscribe to the idea that while we are creatures of free will, there is also a larger order to the universe. I believe in God, in the karmic principle of what comes around goes around, that there are no accidents, and, just to keep it interesting, the concept of grace. From this vantage point, I believe life presents each of us with a seemingly endless array of lessons, often painful in the learning, but necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go. And for those lessons learned and others still to come, I am eternally grateful.
I am also grateful for life’s teachers, the most important of whom in my life is God, and from whom so many blessings flow. If God is my source of divine inspiration, as far back as I can remember, there have been pivotal people on this earth whose paths have intersected mine. As if angels sent to lead me gently (or not so gently) back to my self, they have taught me many important lessons, often altering the trajectory of my life. Sometimes the lessons have been deliberate and overt, while at other times, they have been hidden behind the guise of hardship and tough love.
I think back, for example, to the college economics professor my sophomore year, who singled me out of a class of 300, to ask me what I had in mind for my life and to plainly point out that my answer could not be found on the path I was currently on. A course correction would be necessary. It was that simple. For me, that meant changing schools, a decision which lead me to those others who believed in me and my potential, despite outward evidence to the contrary. They, too, challenged me to rise to my higher self, which ultimately set me on a path towards academic and professional success, though not without failures and hardships along the way. Then again, no one ever promised me a rose garden without thorns, and often the path most worthy of our highest and best selves requires tremendous courage and sacrifice along the way.
In the wake of my personal upheaval these past few years, I think about those others who have come into and remain in my life or whose paths intersected mine for only a brief moment of time, all of whom helped awaken my lost soul, enabling me to tune into my heart. I think about people whose own life, learning, and leadership inspire me. Unbeknownst to them, they, too, are unwitting teachers on the journey of my life. Perhaps some of my most important teachers have been my own children, whose innocent hearts still have a limitless capacity to love and forgive and to find wonder in each moment of their lives. They have so much still to learn, yet they come into this world already knowing what is most important.
I am grateful. For the lessons, for my teachers, and for the gift of life itself.
What and who are you thankful for this day?