In daily life, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy. – David Steindl-Rast
On my run this morning, I realized that I was lost, deep in my thoughts. I was reflecting on my son’s seventh birthday party, which we had celebrated the previous evening. I thought about the children running around, the smile on my son’s face, and the delicious birthday cake.
I also realized that the party had kind of passed me by. I was busy…busy with making guests feel welcome, arranging the food, and making sure that all ran smoothly. It was a lovely, happy occasion, but it came and went in a rush of planning and executing.
And as I reflected on the birthday party, I realized that, all of a sudden, I was halfway through my run. Today was a warm, southern California morning, and I was out on a dirt trail that wound up and around hills with beautiful views of the surrounding valleys and towns. Partly immersed in my thoughts of yesterday and partly focused on the ground, I didn’t stop once to take in the breathtaking scenery around me.
And so life goes. We lose the present moment in the constant re-living of previous moments, or in the anxiety of future events that may or may not happen. Or, in a seemingly positive version, we become focused on achieving goals. We chase the high that comes with each subsequent accomplishment while the journey passes us by…
This post marks the first time I have been invited to write a guest post. It feels amazing to be asked to write something. But before I can even fully absorb what that means for me, I already start to think of all sorts of other future writing goals… other blogs to post on, writing another book, and so forth. This accomplishment, once hard fought, has already passed me by.
The high becomes weak in the search for the next high.
And, of course, we have many life goals that we continuously work towards. The next raise, losing ten pounds or moving into a bigger home. We buy into the belief that is driven into us via a success and productivity oriented culture. “I will be happy WHEN I accomplish my goal.”
But, what will it all mean in the end? When I think about how I want to feel at the end of my life, looking back, I am not interested in the length of my resume. Yes, accomplishments are important benchmarks, and working towards improvement can be positive. Yet these achievements are empty if all that occurred in the in between is lost.
To me, what counts is the journey, the process. What type of legacy am I leaving behind? What type of impact am I having? Whose lives did I touch along the way? How did I feel in my body and spirit along the way? Did I live a life filled with passion, challenging myself to live fully and freely?
And yet, the lives we lead are filled with one lost moment after another. Moments that continue to pass us by as we regret past choices, and chase future goals. Yesterday has happened already, tomorrow is an illusion. I want to deepen my experience of the moment I am living, right here, right now.
For me, the way I can deepen my experience of this present moment is by getting out of my head and tuning into my physical body. I can feel the steadying force of my breathing, the miracle of the consistent expansion and contraction of my chest. I can tune into my senses…feel the keyboard under my fingers, hear the background noise of my children chatting, see the words appear on this screen. My breath and my senses are a direct gateway to this current moment and staying present exactly where I am.
Presence is the first step towards gratitude. I can’t be grateful for this moment unless I am aware of living it.
When I connect to my awareness, I become grateful for the opportunity to write. I become grateful for how our words can impact so many people, people we may never meet, people who exist in different countries and cultures. How amazing that we can use our words for something uplifting, something positive? And what a powerful opportunity.
I become grateful for those who take the time to read and absorb something I wrote. It is such a unique, beautiful connection. My gratitude for writing deepens, and as I feel that it in my body, my enjoyment of the process also expands.
Mindfulness of the moments that build our lives, minute by minute, hour by hour, leads to an ability to deepen our gratitude for those moments. Gratitude allows us to sink further into our experiences with a sense of connection and fulfillment. And each of those moments flows into the greater force of our lives. We can be here, now, fully, sentient, for the journey that unfolds ahead and within us…