Gratitude has become one of those fashionable things. We’re all at it. My Facebook feed is full of people listing stuff they’re grateful for. I guess it’s great that they’re practicing this and taking the time to think. Except that cynically I’m not sure it isn’t all a bit superficial. Most of the things people express gratitude are ‘nice’ things. All they’re doing is practicing not overlooking them as they cruise along on their hedonic treadmill.
But real gratitude is a bit tougher than this, I think. It’s hard to feel genuine gratitude for something less obviously cosy and pleasant. How about finding gratitude for the challenges, tricky situations, difficult people? The openness needed to feel true appreciation for all the varied colours of life, including the grey and the downright inky black, is of a different magnitude. It doesn’t fit easily into a Facebook status or a tweet.
I was reflecting a little on the guru mantra with this in mind:
Guru Brahmā, Guru Viṣṇu,
Guru devo Mahēśvarā,
Guru sākṣāt, param Brahma,
tasmai śrī gurave namaḥ
I wonder if part of the message in this mantra is about learning from all circumstances, the different aspects of guru, even the destructive (non-pleasant) ones? Bowing down to them, accepting them, and feeling gratitude for them? We learn from all things, if we are able to face them and not turn away in favour of something that’s packaged more conveniently or presented more conventionally.
My teacher gave me something the other day picking up a conversation we’d had many months previously. I was truly grateful for his care and his attention. But I’m more ambivalent about what he gave me: notes for a healing meditation which might help me as I try to develop a different relationship with chronic ill health.
So the real practice isn’t in receiving this piece of paper gratefully. Of course it’s in what I then choose to do and how I might learn to be. If I can experiment with this meditation exercise and if I can embrace the lessons I might find there. If I can open my guesthouse (to quote Rumi’s famous poem) to all comers. That would truly be something worth shouting about on social media. Except of course that one wouldn’t.