Abundance and the Noticing of It

It’s very hard to feel grateful and depressed at the same time.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that feeling both grateful and depressed at the same time might be like keeping your eyes open when you sneeze: it’s impossible (but you’re going to try keeping your eyes open next time you sneeze anyway, aren’t you? Of course you are.).

This might be one reason why our great nation established the holiday known as Thanksgiving. Because, if one focuses on the good stuff in life –the stuff for which one is grateful—then, one’s focus will be on the good stuff, not on the crap.

And that, my friends, is pretty much all there is to mindfulness meditation (except I don’t think that they distinguish good stuff from crap, per se.).

The best illustration is always a story:

Remember the parable of the monk who was chased by a tiger?  He jumps over a cliff to escape the tiger and finds himself hanging precariously from a vine. Looking up, he sees the tiger waiting patiently and, looking down, he discovers a second tiger waiting below.

Just as two mice begin gnawing through the vine, the monk sees a strawberry growing wild on the cliff, just out of his reach. He thinks for a moment and reaches for the strawberry, letting go of the vine. As he eats the strawberry and falls to his death, he thinks to himself,

This is the sweetest, best tasting strawberry I have ever had.

Though we are constantly faced with a barrage of competing sense stimuli (and by senses, I include the mind), we always have a choice where we direct our attention at any given moment, don’t we?

For the monk in the story, it was the strawberry.

For Viktor Frankl at Theresienstadt it was his life’s purpose.

And for thankful people today (and every day), it’s the thing for which we’re most grateful.

This month, Marissa Bracke issued an invitation to find 30 things –one per day—for which to be thankful, and I appreciated the nudge. If you participated (or if you follow me on Twitter), you may have noticed a few of my things, ranging from abundant, clean water to hot clothes straight out of the dryer.

For me, the state of gratitude is a type of yoga pose. It most often requires that I put myself consciously into it, so anyone who can assist me to hold that pose comfortably –to notice the strawberry– is a friend. Thanks, Marissa.

In Sanskrit, the word for gratitude is krtajna (pronounced kreeta-gya). In my personal study of Vedic literature over the years, I don’t remember hearing much about the mindful cultivation of gratitude, specifically.

In fact, I’ve only seen the word a handful of times. I think this is because gratitude is so closely associated with humility (dainyam). Which one comes first? It’s hard to say, isn’t it?

I also think that it might be because Vedic literatures were intended to be heard while sitting at the feet of one’s Guru, and if you’d made it that far, your gratitude was pretty much a given.

The translation of krtajna is this: jna means “knower.” And krta, in this context, means “performed,” or “done.” So krtajna means, simply, awareness of what has been done.

Better than water. Better than hot clothes out of the dryer. Better, even, than strawberries: All of the sacrifices, small and large, known and unknown, that have been performed by others for my benefit–

-diapers changed, mouth filled, body washed, fevers abated, lessons taught, teeth straightened, patience tested, time invested, trust imparted, confidence bestowed, prayers said, love given, stars shown –all freely.

All freely.

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Photo credit: Kelly West

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4 Responses to Abundance and the Noticing of It

  1. sara says:

    Beautiful – I always find something to reflect on when I visit here. Thank you x

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