If we cannot be happy in spite of our difficulties, what good is our spiritual practice?
~ Maha Ghosananda
Gratitude is a gracious acknowledgment of all that sustains us, a bow to our blessings, great and small. Buddhist monks begin each day with chants of gratitude for the blessings of their lives. In the same way, Native American elders begin each ceremony with grateful prayers to Mother Earth and Father Sky, to the four directions, to the animal, plant, and mineral brothers and sisters who share our earth and support our life.
Gratitude is the confidence in life itself. In it, we feel how the same force that pushes grass through cracks in the sidewalk invigorates our own life. In Tibet, the monks and nuns even offer prayers of gratitude for the suffering they have been given: “Grant that I might have enough suffering to awaken in me the deepest possible compassion and wisdom.”
Gratitude is not dependent on what you have. It depends on your heart.
Gratitude does not envy or compare. Gratitude is not dependent on what you have. It depends on your heart. You can even find gratitude for your measure of sorrows, the hand you’ve been dealt. There is mystery surrounding even your difficulties and suffering. Sometimes it’s through the hardest things that your heart learns its most important lessons.
As gratitude grows it gives rise to joy. We experience the courage to rejoice in our own good fortune and in the good fortune of others. In joy, we are not afraid of pleasure. We do not mistakenly believe it is disloyal to the suffering of the world to honor the happiness we have been given. Joy gladdens the heart. We can be joyful for people we love, for moments of goodness, for sunlight and trees, and for the very breath within our lungs. Like an innocent child, we can rejoice in life itself, in being alive.
Encounter every new moment with wonder and gratitude, and you’ll experience that it’s never too late to open your mind and your heart. As Bob Dylan sings, “He who’s not being born is busy dying.” Live fully and freely.
Practice: Meditation on Gratitude and Joy
Jack Kornfield trained as a Buddhist monk in the monasteries of Thailand, India and Burma. He has taught meditation internationally since 1974 and is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West. After graduating from Dartmouth College in Asian Studies in 1967 he joined the Peace Corps and worked on tropical medicine teams in the Mekong River valley. He met and studied as a monk under the Buddhist master Ven. Ajahn Chah, as well as the Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw of Burma. Returning to the United States, Jack co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, with fellow meditation teachers Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein and the Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California. Over the years, Jack has taught in centers and universities worldwide, led International Buddhist Teacher meetings, and worked with many of the great teachers of our time. He holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and is a father, husband and activist.