Monthly Archives: May 2009

Antidote: Gratitude

Have you ever noticed that you’re usually in a state of wanting? Even right now, you want something. Maybe you want a glass of water. Or you want to lie down. Or you want to shift your body and sit in a different position so your back will stop hurting. Or your wants are bigger – you want to buy a house, go on a cruise, or find the love of your life and get married. It’s always something. We generally believe that if we obey our desires, keep chasing until we snare what we want, then we will finally be able to relax. But the enlightened masters have a different point of view.

I recently read a book called The Truth Is, by H.W.L. Poonja. Poonja was an Indian yogi-saint who lived from 1910 to 1997, and had an awakening as a student of Ramana Maharshi. Poonja invites us to think of a time when we really wanted something, then got it. When we got that thing, we were happy for a moment. The reason for our happiness, Poonja says, is not that we got what we wanted. The reason for our happiness is that for a moment, we were free from desire.

The Buddha said that craving is the source of suffering. When we stop craving, stop wanting, we are simply present with what is here now. What is here is enough.

But how to stop craving?

One antidote is gratitude. To acknowledge the beautiful aspects of life already surrounding us is to feel happy with things as they are. At any given moment we can find abundant gifts that are already ours. One gift is the air we breathe. Have you ever been unable to breathe – from a stuffy nose, or choking, or a fall that knocked the wind out of you? If so, you know the preciousness of breath. The brain can survive for only 4 to 6 minutes without oxygen. Every breath is a miracle that lets us live a little bit longer.

Another gift is our sense of touch. Skin is made of sensitive nerve endings that let us enjoy a cool breeze, warm water, slippery soap suds, the touch of a loved one.

I’m grateful for the yellow flowers on the table, which are miraculously fresh after 2 weeks in the vase. For my eyes noticing countless colors and shapes. For the computer that connects me to you. For an abundance of food in the kitchen. For paper. For fingers. For smiles.

What are you grateful for? What miracles are within and around you? If you’re reading this, send me your list of five things you are grateful for in this moment.