What are you grateful for?
This question can become cliché and trite when you read it every single day on Instagram posts. Gratitude can become stale and void of meaning when #gratitudechallenge is blowing up your Twitter and Facebook feeds. Gratitude has been called the “father of virtues” — the virtue from which all others arise. But what does it actually look like? In the real world, what does gratitude actually look like? Try and imagine a portrait of gratitude in your mind.
If you are imagining a totally liberated flower-child running to the top of a poppy field with her arms wide open, embracing the beautiful universe and her place in it, smiling ear to ear, and celebrating her very life… you might be kind of crazy. But you’re also correct. This is actually sort of what gratitude does look like. Or at least what it can look like.
Gratitude is the thing that allows you to run up to the top of that mountain — in your mind’s eye, in your soul. When life is at a standstill, when things aren’t going your way — gratitude re-centers you and takes your mind off of the breaks you aren’t getting. Gratitude empowers us by reminding us to focus on the things that we do have: to focus on the breaths we get to take, the friends we can call, the bed we get to sleep in, the covers we get to pull over ourselves, the pillow under our head. The fact that we can open our windows and hear the birds. The fact that we can drink green tea in Tennessee, that was harvested and cured in Japan. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of things that we can choose to focus on, in a spirit of gratitude, that will get us to the top of that mountain, even when we’re sitting in traffic, or feeling lonely. It is all just a matter of focus.
Have you ever used one of those fancy big DSLR cameras? Those ones where you have to twist the lens to make it focus on the subject you are shooting? Well with those fancy cameras you get to make a choice: you can choose the auto-focus setting and let the camera decide what to focus on and what the subject is, or you can manually focus and you get to choose what you are going to focus on — and then you twist the lens and blur the background and make the subject nice and sharp and clear.
We live in a culture that constantly encourages us to compare ourselves to others, and because of this, the auto-focus setting in our lives is to zoom in on the things we don’t have. If we let our internal lens auto-focus then our eyes will gravitate toward that girl’s perfect skin, or that guy’s salary, or the thing we can’t afford, or the place we don’t have time to go.
Turn your life off of auto-focus and take the reigns. Set your sight to manual focus and you’ll experience a whole new world. It is hard at first, because it takes a bit of skill to manually adjust the lens so that it isn’t blurry. It takes a bit of practice and effort and skill to get your sight to adjust. To get to the point where you look at something and twist the lens so that the background is blurry and the subject is perfectly clear — but you get to decide what you focus on, society doesn’t choose for you. Now you get to look at the electricity in your home with a new sense of appreciation and clarity, you get to look at the steam coming from your shower and your realize that “Dang! I have hot water! What a blessing!” You get to look at your phone and see that it is full of contacts, of family and friends, who care about you. You stop autofocusing on the one person who broke your heart. Keep adjusting your lens, keep scanning the room and looking closely at every single thing until the little things come into clear view, and you are able to comprehend that the little things are gifts. Wherever you are right now: look around, and don’t rush through it… what do you see? Isn’t it amazing?
That crazy picture of that girl running up the hill and singing to the sun and the flowers, doesn’t seem so crazy. That girl simply took ownership of her life. She just decided she would start running, and leave behind the broken things. Her life is on manual focus, she is grateful, she decides what she sees and what matters.
Start working on gratitude and on manual focus — pretty soon you’ll be on top of that mountain without a care in the world who is watching you sing and dance and celebrate the good and the true.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Matt Richardson, co-founder of Gramr Gratitude Co. Gramr makes beautiful thank-you notes and they believe in the power of the handwritten note. They are building a community around gratitude and grateful living — learn more about their vision of a more grateful world here.
Photo credit: Cam Lee Yoga