Gratitude can turn unpleasant encounters into blessings!

Be grateful to your detractors too – because they are teaching you what Life is! They are showing you a dimension you aren’t aware of and which you can learn from.
Often times when people are unkind and unjust to us, we end up disliking them. We carry anger and grief within us which soon turns into hatred. This is undoubtedly a natural response. But there’s another way of looking at such people. Be grateful to them – for they are teaching you what Life and people can also be.
There’s a story about a Zen Master. He was on a pilgrimage and he came to a village at sunset and begged for lodging for the night, but the villagers slammed their doors. They were against Zen. They didn’t allow the Master to stay in the village; they threw him out. It was a cold night, and the old man was with no lodging, nowhere to go.…he was tired and hungry. He had to make the cold stone steps of a dilapidated temple, outside the village, his shelter. It was really cold, and he could not sleep well. He kept hearing animal noises through the night – and that kept him on the edge too!
At midnight he awoke — because it was unbearably cold — and saw the reflection of the full moon in the temple pond in front of him. A few lotus buds floated in the pond. The moon’s reflection amidst these lotuses made the moment look very surreal. Overcome with the beauty of what he saw, he sat up and bowed in the direction of the village. “Through their kindness in refusing me lodging I found myself on these cold temple steps and saw this immensely beautiful sight of the full moon’s reflection in the pond’s shimmering water,” he thought to himself. He felt grateful. He thanked those people who refused him lodging, otherwise he would be sleeping inside someone’s home and he would have missed this blessing — the beautiful moon, and its magical reflection in the temple pond, amidst the lotuses, and this silence of the night, this utter silence of the night. He was not angry. He accepted his shelterless, cold moment that night. And he welcomed it with great gratitude.
Osho, the Master, while narrating this story, has said: “A man becomes a Buddha the moment he accepts all that Life brings with gratitude.”
I have found great value in holding this perspective. Every time someone is rude to me or criticizes me without knowing the full story or opinionates and passes judgment based on what they think I must be doing, I let that moment of anger and grief pass. I don’t deny that I feel anger and grief at such times. I do. But I let that moment pass. My awareness then reminds me that this painful moment is actually a blessing to practice forgiveness and patience. Like the Zen Master’s cold night became a blessing to witness the beauty of the moon and its reflection in the temple pond,  I too find that each unpleasant encounter with a detractor turns into a blessing when I treat it with gratitude. Doing this is not difficult. All it requires is awareness and practice. When you are grateful, and not agitated in trying times, you are peaceful.

Awaken the saint within with gratitude

Gratitude is magical. But only when we look back and see how far we have come in Life. Only when we look at our NOW and see what we have despite whatever we don’t have. And only when we look at tomorrow with a sense of hope.
Remember that even the ability to hope is not stemming from our own abilities. It is coming because we are blessed with that sense of hope by creation. I remember this definition of blessing somewhere. It goes somewhat like this: “If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than a million who will not survive the week. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of five million people around the world. If you are able to walk around in your country without fear of harassment, arrest or torture of death, you are more blessed than several hundred million people in the world. If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the people in this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. If your parents are still married and alive, you are very rare.” How true. It is this spirit that gratitude, or thanksgiving, celebrates.
Thanksgiving does not mean waiting for the last weekend of November each year to say your thanks for all that you are blessed with. Thanksgiving must be a daily celebration. Much as we postpone happiness, we postpone gratitude as well. We have in fact made gratitude conditional to our wants being met. I can be grateful if I get what I want, has become the excuse we subconsciously keep giving ourselves.
Remember that Life acts in ways beyond our comprehension. Yet every now and then you will find people who are grateful to Life for the opportunity they have to serve humanity. These are folks who rise above their current realities and problems and look at themselves as solution providers, enablers, who serve because another’s need is more than their own. If Mother Teresa is an ultimate example of selflessness, let us also know that there is a serving saint dormant in each of us. That saint within us will become awakened only when we practice gratitude. In the Bible, the disciple Paul instructs, “In everything we give thanks.” What he means is that it is impossible to know the outcome of each event in our Life. But if we remain grateful for each moment, each experience that we live through, we will find ourselves being happy and peaceful with whatever is.

Count till you are done!

Try this simple exercise this Monday morning on your commute to work!

Count the number of people you wish to thank for bringing you (up) this far in Life, up to this moment of reading this Post. When you are done, please share that number as a comment to this Post or simply jot it down somewhere. (PS: recounting and revision is allowed!) This exercise provides an opportunity to break free from the ‘I, me, mine’ trap and is a lesson in gratitude. Saying “Thank You!” is the best prayer….

On your drive back home, this evening, reflect on the exercise and on what those people you thanked have done for you…….

As you fall off to sleep later tonight, examine how you feel. Feeling overwhelmed, humbled, grateful and stress-free are both assured and intended outcomes of each part of this exercise!

Have a wonderful, grateful week ahead!