I was blessed over the holidays to learn a true lesson about gratitude (in retrospect, how appropriate!) and I have come to see that it is a real tool to happiness...one that can be used to bring positivity and healing to any situation. Over the holiday I was in beautiful, sunny California at an an amazing condo on the beach in San Diego, a city which has a million fun things to do. I was really looking forward to having a, fun filled vacation...and what happened? Someone was sick every day I was there. First it was my son, then my mother, then my husband, then my mother in law...it was really a recipe for disaster- a bad mood, and a bad trip just waiting to happen. Whereas in the past I would have let my attachment to my expectations, and my desire to have the trip be a certain way cause me to be disappointed, then irritable, then angry, then just plain worn out from 2 1/2 wks of sickness...I was determined to not let it be so. Recently I have been working very hard to not be attached to my desires, expectations, or material inclinations...and this to me was a great test for that. But, I have to admit that while this has been my goal I wasn't quite sure how to reach it. Was it through control of my thoughts, or by constant testing until it was burned out of me, or through prayer and fasting? What I found through my Christmas ordeal...was that the key was gratitude. No matter what happens, no matter what is taken away...there is still something to be grateful for. And whereas intellectually one may think that by attaching your consciousness toward another material thing would be contrary to the goal...gratitude for the blessings in your life has the alternate effect of going beyond the ego, and taking us away from attachment. I realized the fullness of this concept in the simplest of choices I made while on vacation. My son was sick? How thankful I was that I could watch over him, while to beautiful ocean was outside to soothe me. My husband was ill? How wonderful it was that it didn't happen until he got to CA so I could be with him and see him after a week of being gone. My mother was throwing up? How thankful I was for the time we did get to spend having heart to heart conversations...every time a feeling of hopelessness tried to take over I would combat it with gratitude and thanksgiving to the Divine for all the great things I did receive while there. Even if I didn't get to go surfing, and to the amusement park, and around to take more photographs (I love photography), the small, simple moments were far more meaningful. And although this may seem like a small lesson learned in a small situations...the power of gratitude showed itself to me during a far more difficult time in my life when I was no where near where I am in my consciousness today...when I was truly lost in darkness.
There was a time when I was so wrapped up in my own pain that at one point I couldn't get out of bed. My depression was so debilitating that it culminated in me dropping out of college. One day, as I lay there in bed, thinking about my life, I realized that no one was going to "save" me. No friend or family member was going to come bursting through my door and say "Get up! its time to start living your life!" It was up to me to take the first step to having a fulfilling and happy life. I thought "there are so many people who are happy, what is different for them?" and from somewhere deep inside,(which I now realize was the whisper of my Higher Self) I heard a tiny voice that told me...choice. We all have a choice. The world is the world, and we see it for what we believe it to be. There are just as many "bad" things as there are "good", there are just as many "mean" people as there are "nice"...but we see what we want. I was always flabbergasted when I was out driving, or shopping, or going to school by how rude and inconsiderate people were. But how many people had been nice that I hadn't noticed? Were people maybe extra rude because I was always in a foul mood? On and on my thoughts swirled around in my head, and I went from thinking that I was a victim of a terrible curse to realizing that I had some control over my life, and that maybe my life was a result of who I was inside. So I took that first step, allowing my feet to slide out from the covers and feel the carpet beneath my bed, and I thought "how nice it is to have carpet". Who do you know had been thankful for carpet? But that thought was a start, a new way to look at the world. It was a new way to cultivate an attitude that wasn't so full of darkness and despair; a way that kind of tickled my heart and gave me hope. After all those months it was like a refreshing drink of water given in the desert. So I started to cultivate the attitude of gratitude when I could...of course having a new attitude about life was a challenge to overcome, but now I had a tool. So I counted my blessings- food, shelter, the ability to not have to sleep in a cold street in the winter, health...in the beginning my blessings seemed few, but there was always at least one things that I could be grateful for and over time I realized how great even the smallest one seemed. And now 12 years later, I have so many blessings, family, friends, happiness, healthy, a graduate degree, a beautiful son, and this lesson has come full circle in the smallest of circumstances...an illness over Christmas vacation, and I am made fully aware of its power.
The only way to true happiness is to look outside our small selves to our Higher Self which resides within us and throughout the whole universe...to realize our intimate connection with everything and everyone. The material realm, the material consciousness of the ego strives for more, and is never satisfied always leaving us feeling empty no matter how much we gain. But, when we connect to our Higher Self, we connect to the source of all and thus can never feel empty. We accomplish this by purifying ourselves to our lower natures and exalting our Higher Self. Gratitude is the loving way to purification, for it automatically humbles us and withdraws us from the ego. It fills us with love, hope, and kindness, and causes us to want to share it with others...thus becoming a self-perpetuating gift.
May we be grateful for all that we have this year, and share our blessings with others.
Nosce Te Ipsum
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