When most of us think of things to be grateful for, we think of bigger, umbrella benefits. We think of how much nicer it is to have a sunny day than a rainy one. We think about how lucky we are to be with someone we love, even if we have some arguments sometimes. We think about how we may dislike our job, but we are grateful we have one when too many others don’t.
Those are all good things to be grateful for, but there is another kind of experience to be grateful for as well. These are the smaller examples of beauty or good fortune that often go unnoticed by the busy-minded.
If we want our lives to be rewarding we must learn to become someone who is very skilled at finding and appreciating the small graces that exist in every person’s day. These small offerings by the universe are like an energizing fuel for our soul.
If we are ruminating about our dissatisfaction regarding a fixed, external world in which a bunch of things happen to, us, then that is what is filling our consciousness. Then we have no room left for small graces.
If however, we can learn to see the world as a flexible place, where reality emerges as we all weave our choices together, then less looks ‘wrong’ and more makes sense.
Then someone who may have been labelled a ‘friend who frustratingly kept us waiting,’ can instead by someone who ‘happily made it to lunch despite the horrible traffic.’
That state of mind allows us to accept more, and relax into a form of awareness that is about being in the world, rather than subject-object labeling it and then self-discussing it as thought.
Our egos are like labeling and judgment machines. But if we shut them off occasionally, a universe of small graces becomes visible to us. We begin to realize all of the ways in which we have failed to exercise our gratitude in the past.
Breakfast can be a busy-minded process with little presence; or it can be a quieter time that might allow us to notice that birds are singing right outside our window each morning. That gift of nature is lost when our minds are moving from judgment to judgment.
Each day is filled with many similar graces. But we cannot expect them to leap into the forefront of our minds. It is only through our conscious attention that these opportunities turn into our reality.
It is worthwhile setting an intention to find at least some of these graces, every single day. Over time that skill will develop and become more natural, until we’re eventually at the point where we find it hard to find disappointments and ugly things, yet very easy to find graces and things of beauty.
Why not start today? Before the end of the day, find five fortunate or beautiful things that you feel confident you would not have noticed had you not been doing this assignment.
If we succeed and find these little gifts, the happiness we derive will have come not only from the things we noticed, but also from our own awareness. Without that, those gifts would have seen their value go unrealized.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.