As we travel through life, we experience both good and painful karmas. Perhaps there is nothing more powerful, nothing that will make us take our focus away from ourselves to the greatness of God during these times, than gratitude. Gratitude puts the Lord in every moment of our life, not just into the moments that we set aside for meditation or spiritual discipline. Gratitude means to live life as a gift. True gratitude embraces all of our life, not just the good, the joyful, the holy; but the painful, the sad, and the not so holy. It is the separation of joy and sorrow that artificially keeps us attached to the continual search for worldly happiness.
It may be helpful to understand that in all of our life, in every event, no matter how significant or difficult, the hand of God has been with us. Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III:
You see, the Lord has given us so much in life, but we don’t have that thankful heart. Instead of asking the Father to give us the boons in life, we should ask him to give us a heart which is full of gratitude.
Living gratefully requires practice. Initially, it takes concerted effort to acknowledge the past hurts and experiences of pain that have brought us to this moment in our lives. Going through our karmas is like pruning a rose bush. The bush is sometimes pruned drastically to allow the plant to concentrate its energy and produce flowers. Pruning in this sense, is not punishment, it is preparation.
Gratitude is a way to see our remembered experiences as opportunities for the ongoing conversion of our hearts. The open-heartedness of gratitude towards everything in our lives will provide us with the energy that will help move us forward. It will help us see that all our problems in life are comparative.
There is a story of the old beggar who was walking barefoot across the hot sand cursing the Lord because he had no shoes, until he came across a man without legs and without feet, rolling through the hot summer sand so that he could go into the shade. This story is a perfect example of the comparative nature of our troubles. We don’t realize how many blessings he has already showered upon us. Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, “We have nothing else left to do but to kneel down and thank him for what he has showered on us.”
Practicing gratitude helps turn our heart and our attention in his direction. Every moment of every day we have the opportunity to remain in the state of gratitude that says, “Thanks be to God.” And we have the opportunity every morning to express our gratitude for the gifts that he has given us, through our meditation.
Wisdom is pouring into you
from the beloved saint of God.…
Although the house of your heart
is lit from inside, …
Rumi, The Rumi Collection, edited by Kabir Helminski