I have a friend who’s basically my one-man sangha – that is, my community of fellow travelers on a path of spiritual and emotional enlightenment consists of, well, him. And that’s cool. One thing that we talk about a lot is gratitude. I think gratitude actually comes pretty easily to me. I look around at the world and I see beauty everywhere. Does gratefulness require an indirect object? I feel gratitude without a sense of being grateful to a particular person or thing. To the universe, I guess.
It feels like cheating, sort of. Too easy. My life has been good; my troubles minor. Would I be grateful if I lived through some of the trauma that so many people on Earth survive – or don’t survive? Then again – would I even be me, if I had gone through those experiences?
For a while, I was in an emotionally stressful situation that I couldn’t avoid, just had to muddle through. No, that’s not true – I could have avoided it, but the paths to doing so weren’t ones I could accept. So I pushed through, at a price. I was still practicing gratitude, but perhaps the amplitude of my gratitude wave was diminished. Perhaps the shine of my gratitude polish was dulled. I saw everything through a fog of misery.
After crawling through that muck and mire and emerging into the light of a beautiful day, my gratitude shone like the sun. I believe that ultimately my goal is to be grateful for the muck and the mire as much as for the beautiful, sunny day and the times when everything seems to be going my way. Or am I supposed to be impervious to it all? No, I don’t believe that – I can’t see the Dalai Lama’s smiling face as he greets yet another person and think for one moment that he’s impervious to emotion.
But really, that muck and mire was relatively minor. Compared to what so many people endure, it was a blip.
How do you survive rape or torture or mutilation – things done intentionally to harm – and still experience gratitude? Are the people who manage this “better” than the people who are dragged down by it? No, that seems too judgmental. How could I possibly judge a person who went through that sort of experience for who they become in the aftermath?
Does my gratitude “count”? Is it too facile, too naive? It’s pretty easy to be grateful when a beautiful spring sun shines down upon you and limns you in gold.
Lest I take myself too seriously, my husband and I just got in a tiff about the stupidest thing, and as I’m typing about gratitude and love and airy-fairy stuff, I turn to my husband and snap at him. I think I have a ways to go before Enlightenment. NYAB – Not Yet A Buddha.