We have been blessed with the ability to be grateful. So let us have the wisdom to appreciate it and be thankful for small mercies (as well as big ones) to fill our lives with abundance and positivity, says Jamuna Rangachari
The famous author Dr Wayne Dyer says, “Give yourself a gift of five minutes of contemplation in awe of everything you see around you. Go outside and turn your attention to the many miracles around you. This five-minute-a-day regimen of appreciation and gratitude will help you to focus your life in awe.”
We all have something in life to be grateful for and something to feel depressed about. The more we focus on all that we have to be grateful for, the more it is bound to increase in the journey of our lives. It is time we work to make it a part of our very being.
I often think of my late mother-in-law whenever I think of the virtue of gratitude. All through her life, with the health and family challenges of bringing up her nine children, she always began and ended each day with a shloka of gratitude wherever she was. Due to this attitude, she was known as a lady sharing smiles wherever she went.. She was in awe of every new thing she came across, so much so that most children preferred to be with her than with other ‘boring’ adults. She truly was one of a kind, and this is how she is remembered today.
The fact is that none of us can change the cards that are dealt to us by the Universe. However, we can certainly play them well. Playing our cards well is much easier when we are grateful for all that we have, no matter how little we may think it to be. With this mindset, we also begin to attract like-minded people who are also grateful for all that they have in life. We share the stories of some such people with you here.
Challenges vanish with an attitude of gratitude
Satish Sharma is a former government officer from Delhi, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2005 and underwent surgery, chemo, and radiation. However, bringing in lifestyle changes through the study of natural therapy, he has kept himself healthy and disease-free for the past 17 years. Today, he is a health coach who guides many. He says, “You have to look into the abyss where people are at the bottom in their lives, and there are many of them—more than 90 per cent in the world. I have to be grateful that I am at least in the 10 per cent of the fortunate ones despite my complaints and grouses in life.” Undeniably, it is this attitude of gratitude that has contributed to his becoming a health coach from a cancer victim.
We also need to be grateful to the Universe itself. As Ravi Valluri, a senior railway officer, now in Chennai, says, “Gratefulness and gratitude imply being appreciative or thankful to someone or an event, but then this is duality. If so, then there is a separation between us. Can’t we just be ever thankful to the Creator/God/Universe?” His own experience is that of overcoming alcoholism through the prayers of all his well-wishers. “In my case, it was through the effort of my wife, mother, and grandmother that I could extricate myself from the cesspool of the disease. They fervently prayed to Raghavendraya Swamy of Mantralayam, read Hanuman Chalisa, Sundar Kanda, and Vayu Stuti, which planted the seeds of my recovery.”
While he was posted at Bikaner as a senior divisional operations manager and totally ruined by alcohol, a stranger advised his father that Ravi ought to attend the Part 1 programme of the Art of Living. Later, when Ravi was posted at Jaipur, his wife enrolled him for the course, and he attended it. She used to drive him in chilly winters every day for the course and bring him back. He learnt the unique breathing technique of Sudarshan Kriya. However, he was still drinking though he was faithfully practising the technique.
He did various Art of Living courses and became part of the faculty. He found great happiness in conducting courses for alcoholics and drug addicts, as he could empathise with them. Having received a copy of my book Dancing With Life from his uncle Vasudeva Rao, he contacted me through him. Soon, he started writing for Life Positive, and before long, those articles were noticed by Ketan Tana of The Free Press Journal, for whom he began to write. He happened to show these articles to Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who asked him to keep writing and mentioned that his books would be published. Over the last six years, he has written both fiction and non-fiction, and has contributed to anthologies. He is indeed grateful and indebted to divinity.
Healers and the attitude of gratitude
Everyone benefits from incorporating gratitude in their lives, especially healers, as they know that the absence of this virtue leads to many pitfalls in the journey of life. It is for us to choose this attitude for our wellness. However, unfortunately, most of us choose the wrong attitude. The result—illness and chaos.
Manoj Lekhi, a healer and workshop facilitator from Mumbai, says, “When we make gratitude the basis of our thoughts, feelings, speech, and action, we trigger an inner and outer vibration of prosperity and well-being. There are two types of emotions man goes through: fear and love.”
He knows from experience that whenever one experiences emotions of fear—which include sadness, loneliness, and anger—one unknowingly attracts more of what one doesn’t want. Conversely, when one expresses love, joy, appreciation, and gratitude, one transmits higher vibrations.
He continues, “As per the age-old saying, we reap what we sow. So when we remain in gratitude, irrespective of a favourable or unfavourable situation, person, or health status, we find a dramatic shift in our well-being. We experience a wholesome improvement in our body, mind, spirit, health, business performance, income, social interactions, and our environment too. A single thought, word, or act of gratitude has an ever-growing ripple effect. This creates and sends far-reaching energy circles, infusing feelings of life fulfilment and increased overall happiness.
“Having travelled for the last 25 years, staying with about 500 odd families of loving meditators, I have noticed that most people find several things disturbing. They get disturbed if
it is too hot
it is too cold
it rains heavily
it does not rain heavily
the helper doesn’t come
the newspaper or milkman doesn’t come
their pay cheque doesn’t come on time
their customers don’t make payments on time
the food is not as per their preference
there is less salt or the absence of it in their food
they end up being late for a meeting
they are too ahead of time
a pick-up vehicle like a bus, train, or plane is not on time
someone gets in front of them standing in a line
“This list can go on and on. We find faults or complain about how things are not going the way we want them to and how they should be other than what they are. At such a time, my suggestion is to convert the complaint into gratitude towards that situation, person, or event in your life, and you will experience a huge shift in your desired result.
“Whenever I get disturbed I now see it as a message from the Universe to me.
I am then thankful to this existence for giving me an opportunity to grow in silence, love, and compassion. My alertness and awareness increase in this situation, and I start to enjoy this cosmic play.
“In a relationship, if someone is disturbed, I immediately start feeling compassion for that person. Why do I feel compassion? Because whenever one is disturbed, it is not their fault. They are disturbed because of some deep troubles they may have gone through in the past or may be going through in the present.
“If I get disturbed because of poor health—a cough, body pain, back pain, or stomach pain, etc.—I realise I have taken that part for granted and have not given enough thanks to that part. I then thank the Universe for giving me an opportunity to be more loving towards that part which is diseased. Whenever I do so, that part is healed and I am perfectly healthy within no time!
“If I get disturbed due to financial problems, e.g., if money is not sufficient for projects I have taken up, I go into silence and thank the Universe for giving me an opportunity to be more silent and to see this whole money thing as a cosmic exchange of energy.”
He sees this as an opportunity to give even more of his services to everyone. He has seen with this practice that, miraculously, all the funds he requires just flow in towards the project.
“We conduct workshops on precisely this simple and effective virtue of gratitude. Many of our participants come with the question “How can we be grateful?” when they are facing what they consider serious challenges in any area of their life. Sometimes I am surprised that we have to teach them to actually think ‘thank you,’ say ‘thank you,’ feel ‘thank you,’ and most importantly, live ‘thank you’ in their life!
“We impart knowledge about the principles of being grateful and have devised applicable techniques and self-awareness tools which can be applied daily. Many of our participants have consistently practised these and have experienced tremendous benefits from this simple approach to life of simply being thankful. We also follow a daily sadhana of verbalising and, thereby, emotionalising the virtue of gratitude, so that this ‘habit’ becomes second nature. This is done by way of repeating affirmations for our entire well-being and being in gratitude towards physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, personal, professional, and social aspects of our life as well as our food, nature, world, and the Universe. The magic starts when we start by saying each affirmation with a THANK YOU!
“This approach of being in gratitude not only brings about a transformation in one’s mindset but, over time, results in a change of heart, and very soon, we overflow with love, compassion, and forgiveness towards every situation in our life. This is the power of incorporating the simple attitude of gratitude.”
He shares the remarkable experiences of people in his workshops. “One of our meditators, Bijal, and her husband were married for five years and were keen to become parents. After several medical treatments and consultations, she was still unable to conceive. In exasperation, she approached me for guidance. She attended our Magic of Gratitude workshop and—with the focussed practice of remaining in gratitude towards her body, her family, her relationship, and other specific aspects of her life—she experienced a life-changing inner shift. I further gave her verbal affirmations which were to be said with the prefix “Thank You.” Within three months, she gave us the great news of embracing parenthood, and today, she is the joyous mother of a healthy seven-year- young!”
With a plethora of such experiences, he knows that gratitude alone can transform lives. He avers, “We often underestimate the power of these words—THANK YOU.
It is a simple, quick mantra to transport ourselves from complaint mode to gratitude zone, opening up immense possibilities in our lives.”
Another healer who understands the power of this virtue is Pervez Daruwala from Mumbai. He says, “Saying thank you was part of my upbringing, manners, and etiquette.” He shares that he truly understood the meaning of gratitude when he learnt reiki for the first time. Reiki instilled in him the attitude of gratitude. This was much more than just saying thank you as being part of good manners. He learnt to actually look for things, people, situations, etc. in life to be grateful for. As he worked more with the attitude of gratitude, he realised it is a powerful way to be and not just behave.
Gratitude has played an important role in his deep interest in healing and transformation. He realised that an attitude of gratitude creates a space for grace in one’s life almost magically. It helped him see things from a larger perspective. He began making a list of everything to be grateful for and expanded his horizons regarding how much there is for him to appreciate and be thankful for. The most important learning was to be grateful even for the challenges and difficulties of life, as those stretched one’s resilience and brought one closer to the Divine.
Gratitude for growth
The attitude of gratitude is a pill of well-being and growth for almost everyone. When we see this being practised by others, we automatically like to incorporate it into our life too. Anasuya Devi from Mumbai shares her experience with her mathematics teacher who inspired her to become a maths teacher herself. She shares how Mr Sriram Murthy, by just being who he was, taught her the alchemy of teaching, turning lead to gold with his knowledge and experience, and adds that the morals imparted by him will remain permanently entrenched in her.
She recalls the day she first met him with her father. “As soon as we entered his house, a tall, bronzed man in his late fifties with broad shoulders received us in the verandah and spoke very gently to my father, enquiring about my grandparents. Finally, after a round of coffee, he said he had stopped taking classes because of failing health and politely refused my father’s request to tutor me even after repeated pleas. After a while, disappointedly, we got up to go home. At the last minute, almost before crossing the main door, he asked my name. “Anasuya Devi,” I replied. He was very happy to hear this as it was his mother’s name and immediately agreed to teach me. That was the first time in my life that I felt proud of my name (and I have been proud of it ever since), as I always thought it sounded very old fashioned.”
That is how her journey with mathematics began. Mr Murthy’s classes were always a mix of fun and knowledge, and they eventually became the highlights of her week. She was always greeted cheerfully with “Amma, please come.” He would call out to his wife and ask for two coffees, one for her and one for him. Time flew past and, suddenly, two hours would be up. He kept her engaged by discussing current events in India or sometimes sharing his experiences teaching underprivileged kids or his recollection of the time he won the Best Teacher national award. He had a great sense of humour, and he made good use of it to explain every difficult question to make it easier for his students. He always believed in her and said she would be a topper and showed no surprise when she, indeed, became the district topper. During the examination time, he would ensure that the school was open till late in the evening, with the lights and fans on for all the kids who did not have power at home, being from economically backward families. He never judged any student on the basis of caste, creed, or religion and treated them all as equals.
Anasuya concludes by saying, “Decades had passed, and I went to meet ‘Sir’ with my kids. He was so happy and showered them with gifts and compliments. I can never forget his expression when he asked the name of my son and my son answered “Sriram.”
In another zone of learning, Nithya Rajendran, founder of the music institute Music Vruksh and a parent from Mumbai, found her path opening up by understanding gratitude. She says, “I found that the real lasting way to happiness is to be grateful for what is and move forward to an even better place from there. I found a powerful analogy in music. When we do riyaaz (practice) on single notes, each note is celebrated for its unique place. When different equally unique and beautiful notes come together it becomes a magical piece of art. A song! From completion to more completion. From beauty to more beauty. This is the only way. And the only way to happiness is from gratitude to more gratitude.”
Speaking on parenting, she adds, “Parenting is unconditional love yet pretty thankless at the same time. Nevertheless, a parent is always a parent. So, to genuinely enjoy parenting is to be grateful for small milestones, small achievements.”
She summarises her view on gratitude by saying, “For me, gratitude is the only way to find happiness in life here and now.”
We all are malleable and, if we take the right steps with the right ingredients, can surely become gold in the journey of life. Here, gratitude is certainly a key ingredient that adds contentment, happiness, and joy to our life. It is not that difficult as there are so many things we can be grateful for in this wonderful universe. Let us make our lives awesome, making gratitude a part of who we are.
Teaching story: Being grateful amidst danger
One day, while walking in the wild, a woman came across a tiger. The woman fled, but soon she came to the edge of a high cliff. To protect herself, she climbed down a vine and dangled over the fatal precipice. The tiger swiped down with its claws, barely missing her hands. Concurrently, two mice also appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine.
She then noticed a plump wild strawberry on the vine and consumed it with delight.
It was incredibly delicious and she enjoyed it.
This Zen fable has a clear message:
The woman wasn’t caught up in what was behind her or worrying about what was yet to come. She was in the moment and able to notice the juicy, delicious strawberry right in front of her face. This shows us that gratitude finds us when we are fully open to all that life throws at us and embrace life’s inevitable challenges, impossibilities, setbacks, and struggles.
Including gratitude in the journey of life
Appreciate the beauty around you
Be grateful for the joy every moment gives or the lesson it teaches you
Begin and end each day with a chant of gratitude
Make gratitude a part of your personality
Live with an attitude of gratitude
Never worry about the future or live negatively in the past
Don't compare with those who have more but with those who have less
Say thank you to all for every little thing they do to you with a smile
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