They say that there are a thousand influencing factors that affect the way we experience ‘something’ and perspective is one of them. Have you ever heard someone relay an event that you were a part of and been dumbfounded by their interpretation of it? Their version is not necessarily wrong, but it might be different to yours, depending on how they perceived it.
One of the most transforming perspectives that one can choose to take in any given moment is gratefulness. Gratefulness is always an option.
On speaking about gratefulness, the Zen Buddhist monk/teacher Thich Nhat Hanh and the Benedictine monk BR. David Steindl-Rast found that they had more in common than not, and both found mindfulness at the heart of gratefulness. These two tenants go hand in hand, and what is more, we have the ability to touch in with gratefulness in every moment of the day: good or bad.
Br.David Steindl-Rast explains that “gratefulness is really always gratefulness for opportunity. When you see the flowers, it is the opportunity to enjoy them and smell them. So even suffering is the opportunity to learn compassion. And what you are grateful for is never the thing itself, but the opportunity for whatever this present, given moment offers you. And when we respond, we find there is compassion”. So, even if our moment is difficult, we can soften around the experience by switching perspective and witnessing the opportunity for growth.
Thich Nhat Hanh echoes this sentiment when he goes on to add that “gratefulness can be felt with every step. You are alive and your feet are still strong enough for you to make steps on this beautiful planet. So, with mindfulness of breathing, mindfulness of walking, every step you make brings you home to the here and the now, so that you can get in touch with all of the wonders of life and every step like that can be nourishing and healing”. Again, each step that we take and every moment that we have carries the potential and opportunity for transformation. In this way, even the most difficult moment can hold promise.
This week’s mindfulness challenge is to set the intention to bring gratefulness into the difficult moments we are faced with each and every day. Perhaps it is a good idea to start with the small difficult moments, such as, whenever we feel uncomfortable (too hot/ too cold) or when we feel challenged in conversation. We might see if we can be grateful that we have the opportunity to tend to our situation by putting on or taking off a layer…and that we have clothes on our back. Or perhaps, we might feel grateful that we live in a society where voicing our opinions out loud is one of the basic human rights that we enjoy.
As we bring gratefulness into these moments, notice the thoughts that surface, the feelings in the body and our emotional state in response to this switch in perspective. And as with all of our practices, if things become too difficult, simply come back to your breath and rest.