Gratefulness Increases the Value of Everything

23 Jun

Every week in yoga, our teacher reads a short meditation at the end of the class, usually having to do with relaxation, finding inner peace, being kind, etc. You know the drill – inner enlightenment through good thoughts and happiness, as only yoga teachers can prescribe.

One thing she often says that really hits home for me is that “gratefulness increases the value of everything.” I believe this to be absolutely true. I think that the more you practice gratitude, the more blessings you will receive. This is partly because it’s easier to see them when you’re really grateful for them. It’s quite easy to just focus on the things we want and forget the things we already have. Indeed, I too keep a running list of movies I want to add to my collection, or places I want to visit. Most of these are just dreams. But I’m learning to focus on gratefulness, to appreciate everything I’ve experienced in life thus far, with high hopes for the future. If that doesn’t include the things everyone else has, so be it. I don’t have to be just like everyone else. No one else is like me, so why should I want to be like them? I’m fine with the way my life is going. It doesn’t always match up with what the crowd is doing, and that gets frustrating sometimes. But then I look back and think, “Well, no one else is doing what I’m doing. That makes me really special.”

And it’s true. Although I lead a fairly typical life, the fact that I’ve had some incredible experiences, like going to college, traveling to amazing countries, have a loving and supportive family, and really enjoy the work that I do – I think that’s really rare. Most of the time I think that I’m unhappy, but when I really think about it, that’s not true. I am satisfied with my life, and I am quite happy about it. The times when I’m not are the times when I’m focused on what other people are doing, or what they’re getting. But that doesn’t change anything – that isn’t me and it never will be.

I often struggle with the bad habit of complaining, and the deadly sin of jealousy or envy. I sometimes find it hard to really, truly appreciate the things that make my life so great while not looking to see what is making someone else’s life so wonderful. It’s something I constantly battle with, and often lose to. It’s just so easy to complain, and see immediately what you’re not getting or what the other person has. Although, I have discovered, it does take a lot more energy. When you’re only focused on your own life, and not worrying about what others think or what they’re doing that you’re not, you really have a lot more energy and inner peace. It makes sense, of course, but you don’t realize it until you actually do it. It’s one thing to make a resolution to quit complaining and be happy for yourself; it’s an entirely different ballgame to actually do it.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being goal-oriented and working hard for the things you want. In fact, I admire this far more than those people who are given everything in life and don’t know the meaning of an honest day’s work. The problem is when we get so wrapped up in accomplishing goals to impress others, rather than for ourselves, or to buy things we really don’t need or can’t afford – then we forget how great our lives are and just focus on what we don’t have yet. I think if we were to step back and really, truly be appreciative of things in life – whether that’s family, friends, house, clothing, appearance, job, travels, love, whatever – we would realized that we are blessed beyond measure. Focusing on the haves instead of the have-nots will only serve to make us happier, more satisfied people. We can still go after our goals and dreams, but we won’t be doing it for anyone, or anything, else besides our own happiness. And because it’s something we really enjoy, I think we’re more likely to appreciate it. So it’s a circle over and over – work hard for the things you want, be grateful for them, realize all the blessings of your life, achieve another goal, give thanks for that, etc. You see where it’s going.

I think we’d realize that we really don’t have it as bad as we thought we did. We don’t need all those fancy cars or the most fashionable wardrobe. We don’t need those famous friends or that high-paying but ultimately unsatisfying job, either. It’s the rich experiences in life that truly count – the places you get to see, the people you love, the things you’re good at. That’s really what matters. And in counting your blessings, you shouldn’t leave those out. Blessings aren’t just monetary – it’s everything you see around you. The air in your lungs, the flowers, the love pouring from friends and family, maybe even that little diploma on the wall that you poured your soul out to earn.

I’m going to redefine success in my life. I know I say this over and over, but I’m going to really commit to breaking myself of that complaining habit. Yeah, we all whine here and there, but I’m going to make the conscious effort to count my blessings and increase my gratitude rather than focusing on the things I don’t have yet. Life’s not about that, after all. I’m going to actually live my life, rather than sitting around mourning things lost or yet to be gained.

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