Links in a Chain: A Life of Gratitude
I once heard President Barack Obama describe us as “…links in a long chain, with each of us allotted a specific link granting us just enough time to accomplish our acts.” This thought, he said, should bring us perspective. It is on this note that I wish to commence and build this address.
A life of gratitude can be a wondrous thing but first, it must be obtained. Tell me, friends, are you grateful for your life? Do you truly feel thankful to be here? I am of the mind that anyone who has sincerely thought deeply about such matters, who has pondered life’s great questions, must answer in the affirmative. For life is an incredible thing! It is truly breathtaking and, while it is certainly full of suffering and finite in nature, it is these very realities that cause us to appreciate what we do have. For what is life without death? What is happiness without sorrow? Joy without pain? Victory without defeat? Context is everything, my friends. The reality is that a grateful life is a happy life and in this editorial, we shall examine the link between reaffirmed gratitude, contentment and, ultimately, happiness.
The miracle of existence
Whilst I believe this to be axiomatic, it is, nevertheless, worth reiterating - our very existence is an unbelievable occurrence. The actual odds for all the preconditions necessary for the universe first to permit life, and then to lead to our very own emergence, are incalculable. The numbers are truly mind-boggling but, mirabile dictu, we are here! Understanding this, being cognisant of the sheer odds that have been stacked so high against us, well… how can we do anything other than nurse a feeling of immense and all-encompassing gratitude? This is our starting point, these are the foundations of the gratitude that can transform your world, and help you to see your environment, as well as past and present behaviours, in an entirely different light. You will never be the same again, not if you truly comprehend the significance of what I am sharing with you today.
A yearning for more
Having been bequeathed the gift of life, what forces then appear to alienate us from our ability to fully enjoy and revel in the miracle of our existence?
You see, for a vast majority of us, our lives are characterised by an endless subconscious yearning. A yearning for more… a better job, a promotion, more wealth, a larger home, a flashier car, a larger group of ‘friends’, popularity, more lavish holidays - ultimately, just more things! Many a time, the endless search for these ‘things’ simply masks a yawning void in our sense of self-worth. We, wrongly, assume that the acquisition of these ‘things’ shall be the elixir which makes us whole, brings us validation and finally bestows our lives with meaning and value.
Inevitably, and predictably, we soon learn that the ‘void’ within us (with which we strive to fill by such materialism) is infinitely deep – a dark insatiable hole, which devours all that nears its event horizon, offering nothing back, leaving us only with a deep sense of disillusionment and confusion.
You see, the world has indoctrinated us into the erroneous belief that our identity, our worth and our happiness are to be found in our ‘things’, our ‘accomplishments’, our ‘looks’, our ‘wealth’ etc. For most of us, we never learn or recognise the truth, thus leaving us consigned to a life of perpetual unfulfillment, and wearying discontent, as we forever chase the end of the rainbow as promised by this myth.
The finite nature of life and learning to be thankful
How do we break free from the grasp of this pernicious, destructive and yet all too prevalent mindset? How do we arrive at a place of peace, where we have the strength of character to be content with who, and where, we are now whilst journeying towards the person and place we wish to be? How do we uncover the power to give ourselves permission to be happy both now and when we finally secure whatever dreams we might be pursuing?
The answer? Well, as I have expressed earlier, we must first sincerely appreciate the fact that life is indeed short. Our time on stage upon this theatre called ‘Life’ is nothing but a passing breeze. Mist that trails a fog. What is marvellous is that life’s brevity is what fills it with such beauty. Once we understand this interplay between life’s briefness and its richness, then every moment becomes more vivid, more precious, more intoxicating, more memorable, and more cherished. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow may never arrive, all we have is this precious present moment… value it. Value the time you have. Don’t let your life bleed out and pass you by as you grope into the uncharted future searching blindly for the eternal joy which you already have nestled within you – regardless of your circumstance.
Am I being harsh and unsympathetic? No. What I am doing is sharing some hard truths. Truths you and I need to hear and accept. You see, eternal (i.e. persistent) joy is a deliberately chosen state of consciousness. Forget the idea that you can ‘fall’ or ‘come into’ eternal joy – this is mere wishful thinking. The unvarnished truth is that you decide your way into eternal joy.
Secondly, concentrate on what you already have instead of ruminating on what you don’t. When you finally make the conscious decision to be mindful (and thankful) for what you already have, you will experience a level of joy and happiness previously unimaginable to you. Try it (like I have done). Stop reading this post and, right now, grab a pen and paper and write down ALL the things that you’re thankful for – from the colour of your eyes to the fact that you are still alive and able to read this message!
The place where happiness exists
Without being grateful for what we have, we can never proceed to locate true meaning, purpose, and value in our lives - these great pillars which are indispensable in the quest for attaining a sense of fulfilment and spiritual wellbeing.
So please, heed my words, return to the moment, look around you, realise what it is that truly matters, and just how lucky you are to be here. Against all odds you are alive… and still going! A reality which cannot be said (as you will have no doubt experienced at some point in your life) for many others who have departed this stage either at or before their time. Know this, feel this, absorb this fact and the gratitude necessary for a life worth living will engulf you whole.
This is where happiness exists – in the here and now. Be grateful for your life, be grateful for even the smallest seemingly insignificant things around you. For remember, life is short. This is not a rehearsal. You only have one shot at it… so embrace it fully, embrace the insuperable and transformative power that is a life of gratitude.
Don’t forget to explore all of our materials here at The Odissean Experience, so that your new found life of gratitude can lead to a further enriched mind, body, and soul.