After writing my first blog post dedicated to gratitude, I came across this wonderful quote in the book Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life, They Change It: Wisdom of the Great Philosophers on How to Live by Daniel Klein. Gratitude is not only an important aspect of living a full and happy life, it is also an element deeply rooted in mindfulness and meditation practice. Today, I want to discuss the role of gratitude in present moment awareness, which after all is the foundation on which mindfulness rests. You can also read more about mindfulness and gratitude in my previous blog posts on gratitude in everyday life, gratitude within mindfulness practice, mindfulness and minimalism, and gratitude within the school of positive thinking.
In his book (mentioned above), Daniel Klein asks an important question: What’s next? As human beings, most of us live with the desire to answer this question and advance in life. We desire better jobs, better bodies, better relationships, and better things. But desire is present in our lives on a much smaller scale as well.
Take the following scenario as an example. You are doing your homework or some other chore around the house. You could for example be doing the dishes, cleaning, doing laundry, or folding clothes. Are you present in that chore and in that moment? Are you doing the dishes with the sole purpose of doing the dishes? Are you noticing how the clothes feel in your hands as you are sorting the laundry? Are you cleaning purposefully and intentionally, considering every item as you pick it up and put it away? For most of us, the answer is no.
While we are doing chores, we often think about what’s next. What else is on our to-do list? What else needs to be done? What are we having for dinner tonight? What movie are we going to watch when we finish cleaning? How will we reward ourselves after we finish our chores? Often, a day goes by without us being present at all. Once we have finished (or ignored) our endless list of chores, we may sit down to rest with a glass of wine and a good movie. But are we present in that moment? Or do we lose track of time only to discover that we need to go to bed and repeat the same day all over again tomorrow?
Once we learn to stay present in each and every thing we do (or don’t do), what’s next? How does staying present relate to gratitude? Next time you’re doing the dishes, it might be worth asking yourself: Are you grateful for doing the dishes? Are you grateful in general that you had food to eat and dishes to clean? Are you grateful more specifically that you are capable of doing the dishes? Next time you are cleaning, ask yourself: Are you grateful to be cleaning? Are you grateful in general that you have a house to clean? Are you grateful more specifically that you are capable of cleaning? For every chore and every moment, ask yourself: Are you grateful for the time you have been given to do this chore? Are you grateful for the life you have been given in which you are doing this chore? And, most importantly, are you grateful for the opportunity to live? To be present? To be mindful?
Once you see every moment as an opportunity to be present, which, in its essence, is an opportunity to truly live, a chore stops being a chore and simply becomes a moment.