#33: Be Grateful
I think one of the most frustrating sentences a kid can hear is, "You should be grateful for (that old bike, your hand-me-down video game system, dinner that's not your favorite meal, etc.)!"
That exclamation—which I will admit has come out of my mouth, directed at my own, sometimes less-than-grateful daughter—usually comes on the heels of a child grumbling about something that a parent or grandparent has spent time, money and energy either procuring or making for their beloved progeny, only to be greeted with less enthusiasm than they felt warranted. And, typically, the adult follows that first sentence with a litany of reasons why the child's life is so much better than the adult's ever was, how they would have KILLED for a Sega Genesis when they were your age, and on, and on.
I do not think that conversation has ever made a child feel grateful. So I'm not sure why we think telling adult humans to "be grateful" is going to work, either. I read lots of self-help and self-improvement books, and that's always a part of it—being grateful. Making long lists of things you are grateful for, etc. And none of that really resonated with me, probably because I felt as though my mom was standing over my shoulder again, telling me to be grateful for my lima beans because at least I had something to eat. (It probably doesn't help, either, that I'm really stubborn and contrarian. I'm not alone, though, so I'm hoping this message resonates with at least one of my two readers.)
This morning, I opened my meditation app and saw that today's topic was "Gratitude" and immediately thought, ugh. Here we go again. Some peace-minded yogi in a beautiful yurt in the mountains of California is going to tell me that I need to be grateful. And, as usual, I was wrong. As I listened, the meditation teacher acknowledged how hard it is to be grateful sometimes—and especially now, when things are so difficult for so many—and that there are some days when a gratitude practice just can't get any traction. And on those days, you can just focus on your breath and sit and be calm and maybe, by the end of the 10 or 15 or 30 minutes, you can at least be grateful for the meditation and that's enough. Trying to force ourselves into a list of everything we "should" be grateful for is counter-productive and ends up building resentment, not good feeling.
And you know what? By the end of my 10 minutes (I'm a beginner, give me a break), I WAS grateful. Not just for the meditation, but for lots of other things, too, that floated up while I was on the mat. I tied my metaphorical balloons to them and released them, as I'm supposed to do while meditating, but they made me feel good nonetheless.
So that's my recommendation to you. Not to be grateful, but to create space in your life where you can rest and be calm and maybe that will be enough.