Gratitude for What Matters
Over the past few weeks I have written about a couple of meditations that help us to get some perspective on how each one of us is deeply connected to each other, and how even the smallest actions can have wide ranging consequences. The first meditation, on the simple phrase 'how did I get here?' opens our eyes to the many ways our interactions and history shape our present. The second meditation, suggested by Pema Chödrön, asks the question 'does it matter?' for each of our own thoughts and actions.
We can think of these two contemplations as complementary view of the same web of interconnectedness that we are all part of - the one looking backwards to the causes of where we are now, and the other looking forward to the possible causes that our current thoughts and actions might have.
So if one is looking backwards and the other is looking forwards, it becomes natural to ask ourselves the question 'how should we be right now?'
I think there are many good answers to this. The whole point of these insight meditations is to gain a perspective that informs our present thoughts and actions. So I am going to offer one positive way to work with this insight - to have gratitude for the things that have mattered to you.
By examining the things that have mattered to us in our own path, having gratitude for them, and by recognizing that our own thoughts and actions matter to others we can start to 'model' our own behavior on the things that we are grateful for ourself. If we are grateful for the kind words someone gave us when we needed them, we can choose to offer kind words to others.
In his essay 'The Lessons of Gratitude,' Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu starts by quoting from the Dullabhā Sutta:
Monks, these two people are hard to find in the world. Which two? The one who is first to do a kindness, and the one who is grateful for a kindness done and feels obligated to repay it. These two people are hard to find in the world.
This one short paragraph sums up what we can do beautifully. By being grateful for the things that have mattered to us, we can learn to repay them, or - in the more modern phrase - pay it forward.
You will have noticed that I use Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu's translations and teachings a lot - they are things that have mattered to me, and I am hugely grateful for his rigor, clarity and insight. Many of you probably resonate with that, or have your own teachers that you owe gratitude for. And it isn't just for our teachers. Even the passing smile from a stranger can matter to us at the right moment, and can be the cause for gratitude.
So, as you go through this week I would like to encourage you to be aware of the things that have mattered to you and have gratitude for them. Starting from this place of gratitude provides a strong foundation for your own thoughts and actions.
I have linked below a fully guided meditation on Gratitude for What Matters. Feel free to use it in your own practice in any way you wish.