Twice each week I receive a newsletter from Robert Genn, a well-known B.C. artist. They are inspiring and generally related to the creative process. While I am not an artist, I find real value and insights in much of his writing.
Recently he wrote on gratitude, a topic that we’ve talked about before but which somehow seemed worth revisiting.
When we consider gratitude in the context of an outside-in experience, it’s easy to see how we would feel grateful for certain events such as a successful business venture or a recovery from an illness. There are an endless number of situations that we could, and likely would, give thanks for. Happy, healthy children, loving families, good friends . . . and on and on.
When, on the other hand, we consider gratitude from an inside-out perspective it becomes a different experience. Our gratefulness is no longer dependent on certain outcomes or expectations but is a state of mind. It is, in a way, our default setting as we move through life. Living in gratitude allows us to see the smallest occurrence through different eyes. We can see the gift in the everyday. We are even able to see the gift in some of life’s challenges, realizing that each one is an opportunity for learning and growth.
With gratitude as our stance there is a physical experience of calm. Often our shoulders will relax and our sense of well-being deepens and our lives are enriched.
I witnessed this kind of gratitude recently when a loved one, who is experiencing a painful, debilitating illness, was hospitalized. To quote: “I had the best time. I met so many interesting people and made so many new friends.” That is the inside-out practice of gratitude at its best.
We’ve been taught that we must have some “thing” to be grateful for. We’ve been taught that it’s outside events that create our experience of reality. We now have sufficient evidence proving that our experience is thought created. In other words, it’s not the event that creates our reality but rather what we make of the event.
The paradigm shift in how we understand our moment-to-moment experience frees us to choose how we will view the world. Will we be curious and excited or will we be bored and dissatisfied? Will we be hopeful and resilient or will we be fearful and anxious? The profound truth that life is an inside-out creation is perhaps the thing for which we should be most grateful. It enables us to return to a sense of well-being more of the time, regardless of circumstances.
Of course there are life events that sadden us and some that shake our faith in humanity. There are events that shock and disturb us. Woven through those events, however, are amazing acts of kindness, generosity and courage. Given that we have the gift of choice, let it be gratitude. To quote Robert Genn from his article: “It may be that gratefulness is the very basis of an evolved creative life and a life well lived.”