Finding Gratitude Through Awareness


We seem to hear a lot lately about how we should all be more grateful, because gratitude will make us feel better (and be better people too).  Actually, it’s true, and there is an excellent blog post on just this topic, written by Joshua Becker: Maybe The Only Thing We Really Need is More Gratitude.

Knowing that gratitude is good for us is a great first step, but how do we go about becoming more grateful? Especially in our hectic and time-crunched lives, it seems like just one more thing to do on our endless to-do lists.

We can make a lot of progress toward feeling gratitude by becoming aware of the present moment. Where are we right now? What are we doing? What are we aware of? That awareness of where we are right now helps us to think about what we have in our lives that we can be grateful for: family, friends, a job, a place to live, food to eat… for most of us, even during challenging times, there are so many things we have, so many things to be grateful for.

All too often, it is easy to focus on either the past or the future, or the things we lack, while not being aware of and present to the good things about this current moment that we are living in right now, and life we have right in front of us.

Two quotes come to mind about awareness of the present moment and how this awareness can help us feel more gratitude.

The first quote is from Neale Donald Walsch, who is a well-known inspirational leader.

Neale says this:

Many people make themselves unhappy simply by finding it impossible to accept life just as it is presenting itself right now. There is always something to celebrate, so long as life is being lived.  

Replace the word “celebrate” by the words “… be grateful for.” I would guess that most people, if they look, can find more gratitude for their current lives — their current moment — than they might think possible or that than they are used to experiencing.

The second quote about awareness of the present moment comes from a book called “A Handful of Summers” by Gordon Forbes, which describes the author's experience of growing up playing professional tennis in South Africa the 1950s and 1960s. 

Here is what Gordon says, as he reflects upon the life he was privileged to experience for a handful of summers:

Who can ever re-examine old memories without feeling a little woebegone and miserable? Who can look at old photographs without that odd feeling of sadness — regret, perhaps, for opportunities gone, chances lost, talents wasted. Who can ever be lucky enough to know when good times are at hand, how good they really are? Stop for a moment and say, “THESE moments are as good as they come, THESE now, not others, elsewhen."

This quote has stayed with me strongly ever since I read this book about 10 years ago — especially the last sentence.

Stop for a moment. Bring your awareness to the present moment… and then say to yourself: THESE moments are as good as they come. Becoming aware of what you have NOW allows you to move to the next step of feeling grateful for it.

There are so many things about our lives that are fleeting. The weather is currently hot (too hot for some, I’m sure…), but soon enough it will be cold and snowy. When I drive right now, I often bring my awareness and gratitude to the joy of driving without snow or weather delays. When fall arrives, I can bring that same awareness of the present moment and gratitude for the beautiful colors on the trees that I pass on my journey.

When I go to the grocery store and see a parent wrangling one or more babies or toddlers through the store, I bring my awareness to how fleeting those years were in my life (although they seemed endless at the time).  Yes, I definitely feel the nostalgia of that time, perhaps a little sadness as well, and I am guessing that I probably didn’t feel as grateful for those moments back then as I might have. 

But now, even as I remember what WAS, I can bring my awareness and gratitude to my current life of NOW having two grown daughters, and a much easier time getting through the store, especially when one of the daughters does that chore for me and I don’t have to go at all :) These are some small ways that I work on feeling gratitude in my life.

What are you aware of in your life today? Likely there have been challenges today as well as good things; most days are like that. Take a few deep breaths and bring your awareness to what you have right now in the present moment, and think about how you can be grateful for it, even if there are challenging aspects too.

For me: my present moment includes the mini-challenging aspect of trying to type this blog post with a cat on my lap who is obstructing my hands and keyboard. But… that same cat is also warming my lap and purring contentedly and loving me completely. My present moment has some awkwardness and challenges for sure, but also plenty of comfort and love. For that, I am grateful. Meow!

-- Ann Pillman