Gratitude is cornerstone of all virtues. It is easy to see what is right with humanity when we are looking for it. So why is it so common to slip into negative thinking and pessimism?
Genius comes in many forms and humanity’s collective history is filled with men and women whose genius gives us pause and make us wonder how we might be more like them, if even in the narrowest of views. One thing that seems universal is that those who make into the pages of history learn how to recenter themselves, so the distractions of the human experience don’t take them away from their pursuits.
Some people seem to be born with a laser focus while others languish if set on any one path for too long. Yet both can find a way to thrive within the context of their own mind. There is an argument for mental illness being an illusion as the mind knows what it required to protect itself, but I have nothing coherent to say on that topic today. My focus instead is your mind is uniquely yours and has the capacity for great things if it is allowed to function properly.
How can I encourage my mind to function at its optimal level? I think the answer lays in the ability to cultivate gratitude. Focusing on what is here and now instead of what has passed or what is to come is the key to pure thought. Once we can stop the noise in our heads, we are able to access unlimited gratitude and become present in a way that seems to contradict time itself.
Last night my daughter was in the ER. She had a reaction to her two-year vaccines and her leg swelled to the point that she had trouble walking on it. I was not my best self for most of the day as the stress of my son’s persistent covid infection was wearing on me. Despite my best efforts, worry crept in and stole time from me. So, when my daughter’s pediatrician recommend that she go to the ER, it was easy for my mind to make some unreasonable leaps in logic.
My husband left to take her to the hospital, and I stayed home to care for our son. My head hurt from the pressure of the day and worry took over. It did some negative visualization to combat the worry of my daughter who was at a hospital 45 minutes away. I walked out the worst possible scenarios, felt the shiver of death, and then accepted that we have done all that we can and that the rest was up to fate.
My mind settled so I shifted my thoughts to gratitude. It didn’t take long for my whole attitude to change. My son and I deep cleaned the kitchen while receiving updates from the hospital and transitioned almost effortlessly to our bedtime routine. A few hours later, I received a text that they were on their way home, and I drifted off to dreamland with a calm heart.
This morning I awoke with gratitude on the forefront of my thoughts. My husband told me that there were some very sick kids at the hospital and that there was a code red while he was there. We both felt the gratitude that our daughter’s reaction was not as severe as we thought and that we were all home together safe.
The overall feeling in our house is very different today than yesterday. Our daughter’s experiences were a reminder that nothing is guaranteed in this life and that what we do have is fleeting. The crushing pressure of my son’s illness was put into perspective by my daughter’s and my daughter’s illness was put into perspective by the sick babies my husband witnessed at the hospital.
If I let it, gratitude can pull me from the mire of my own mind and give me a fresh perspective. Today, I will remember that to be best self, I need to take control of my own mind and that gratitude is always available to me to restart my thoughts.