Constant gratitude is a major key to happiness. One way it can be achieved is by coming to our senses -- literally.
I think back to an incident during my days as a student. Like many students there was not enough money, even for food. I recall walking down an affluent street where the homes were well-appointed. It was springtime and the flowers were blooming. As a lover of beauty, I was seeing the flowers, and my inner dialogue went something like this: "Those people are so lucky. They have those beautiful flowers. I can't afford that. I can't even afford enough for food." It went downhill from there. I'm sure you can create that dialogue and add your own personal take to the situation. We have all compared our lives to those that seemingly have more than us.
Then something happened that changed my life. It may seem unusual or strange to some people. I suspect, however, this experience is not so unique. We are usually too busy, preoccupied, or otherwise disengaged from our own moment-to-moment reality to be really present with ourselves, so we miss it.
What happened to me was this: Suddenly, it was as if something changed my usual style of thinking. Something said to me, "Sandra, those flowers are blooming for you as well. Appreciate their loveliness. You didn't have to buy the land, pay the taxes, purchase the bulbs, or work to plant them. However, you can enjoy them as much as anyone."
I stopped and let go of the habitual chatter in my mind. I became very still and clearly focused on the experience of the moment and stayed with that only. I gazed at the beauty of the flowers and the home.
In that moment, I was aware of a wealth of experience for which I could be totally grateful. I could feel the wind on my face, listen to the sounds surrounding me, see and enjoy the changing colors and clouds in the sky, and take in the delicate fragrances. I came to my senses, and it was all free.
Making this realization was totally transformative. As I thought about those lovely flowers, I took a very deep breath. From somewhere deep inside, a smile emerged. I felt it spread through my entire physical form. My body relaxed. My mind calmed and became still. Walking away from that street, I held my head up and had a spring in my step. I had come to my senses.
Although I have continued this practice since that moment, it took a long time to realize the true depth of the experience. There so many curative modalities present, each a powerful healer in its own right. There are whole areas of study based on being in the present moment using your senses: nature therapy, sound therapy, colour therapy, breathing and the mind-body connection. I have witnessed each of these totally transform lives. Each of them offers a way to change, upgrade our level of consciousness, and take another step toward true happiness. By being present with a sound or color, with a mood or emotion, even with a fragrance or an external experience such as weather, we promote being aware of ourselves in our surroundings, giving us the opportunity to realize how many things we can be thankful for.
The most exciting part for me was a question. Where did the direction to pay attention to that moment come from? It was certainly not part of my usual thinking process or any part of my experience. Did the "Great Mystery" itself lead me in that moment? Is there really an omnipotent, omniscient all loving energy that is inviting each of us to step into a greater life?
Einstein said the biggest question we have to decide is, "Is it a friendly universe?"
In that moment, as a student, I decided, the universe was friendly for me. It has served me well. Increasingly, I changed my habitually petulant inner dialogue to one of gratitude. There is scarcely a moment when I don't find something for which to be grateful... no matter what. I now embrace the challenges of life as an opportunity to learn each and every day.
It is as if all of creation is working to lift our spirits at every moment, if we would only pay attention to right now. What if you were to choose at this very moment to engage joyfully with life... no matter what? Of course there are times when I have no understanding of why terrible things are happening. However, those things will continue to happen whether or not we have an attitude of gratitude. If it is a friendly universe, make the best of it and trust in your senses. We have so much to be thankful for.
Now I am off to plant some flowers.
For further reading on this topic, I recommend:
Taoist Ways to TRANSFORM STRESS INTO VITALITY The Inner Smile. Six Healing Sounds by Mantak Chia
Nature Therapy (Ecotherapy)
Color and Color Therapy