If you must thank anyone, thank Life – for giving you this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn, unlearn and relearn….!
As Thanksgiving weekend begins, the energies are perfect to pause, to reflect and to feel grateful for all the blessings in your Life. It’s a great season – warm and compassionate, beautiful and soulful. Yet, gratitude must not be expressed seasonally. It has to be flowing perennially – oozing from your every pore, bubbling from the fountainhead within you. The reason we don’t always feel grateful all the time is because we take much of Life for granted. We have subconsciously come to believe that we have the right to demand, to seek deservance and to expect Life to be our hand maiden – pandering to our whims and desires. But just the opposite is true. Since you – or I – did not ask to be born, since this lifetime is a gift, all that you can and must do in Life is to accept whatever comes your way – and be eternally grateful for it.
I was at a south Indian Palaghattan (a community of Brahmins having its roots in Palakkad, Kerala) wedding this morning. The wedding feast is a must for all invitees. It is an elaborate multi-course meal served on a banana leaf. Today’s menu had over 24 items on it. But something appeared to have gone wrong in the kitchen this morning. Or was it with the service crew? Either we guests had arrived for the sadya, the feast, several minutes ahead of the kitchen being ready with the whole meal, or the service crew were short-staffed. Whatever may have been the reason – the food service was haphazard and woefully slow. The rasam arrived ahead of the sambar. And the thayir-pachadi (a curd-based vegetable side dish) came after the whole meal was over! Several guests did not even receive all the 24 items that were on the menu. Even as I felt sorry for one of the hosts, who was running around rallying the kitchen crew to fall into a systematic way of serving, I could not but help recall what Epictetus (55~135 AD), a Greek thinker and philosopher, had to say about Life: “Remember that you must behave in Life as you would at a banquet. A dish is handed round and comes to you; put out your hand and take it politely. If it passes you, do not stop it. If it has not reached you, do not be impatient to get it, but wait till your turn comes.” I would like to humbly suggest that when your turn does come, be gratefulfor whatever you get!
The wedding feast and Epictetus’ banquet metaphor perfectly sum up the spirit we need to nurture in Life! Not just around Thanksgiving but all the time. But in an instant-gratification, what’s-in-it-for-me world, where is the time to feel grateful for anyone or anything? Which is why we perhaps need a season to remind us of it.
One of the most inspiring examples of gratitude I have known is the way the inimitable Asha Bhosle, now 80, feels about Life. She’s had a roller-coaster 80 years! A bad marriage, being thrown out of home by her husband, struggling to get a toehold in Bollywood as a playback singer, a victim of her own sibling’s designs that prevented her from growing in her career, an eventful relationship with R.D.Burman before he suddenly died in 1994, the death of her only daughter who committed suicide recently. Such a Life, filled with pain and strife, could have numbed anyone. But not Ashaji! She was asked by Forbes Life a couple of years back what she thought of Life. She replied: “I am very grateful. If I had not married, I would not have had such wonderful children and grandchildren. If I had not married, I would not have left home. If I had not left home, I would not have started singing. If I had not met Bhosle (her estranged husband who ill-treated her), I would not have become Asha Bhosle!” What an inspiring take on Life? “If I had not met Bhosle, I would not have become Asha Bhosle.” How many of us can forgive someone who caused us immense pain and look at Life from this perspective – with absolute gratitude! Beautiful!!
Let us always remember that Life is a gift. The only way to live our lives is to celebrate Life in every moment! Every event we go through, each person we meet, is a teacher. Each experience is teaching us to live fully and happily – no matter what we have to face or endure. We are the ones who label each event as good or bad. From Life’s point of view, each event is simply a learning opportunity. It is for this continuous learning that we must be grateful – not just in this season, but all the time!