Last year, an unexpected thing started to happen during an ordinary moment in my day.
It was grey and almost rainy, the kind of day that’s typical as the season approaches winter. But I felt like walking sunshine, as though rays of light were physically bursting out from my chest. I was having my own version of a Care Bear stare.
“What is going on?”, I asked myself with curiosity. For sure, I was in a good mood. But feeling a strong physical flow of energy through and out of my heart and calling it sunshine? It seemed a bit over the top.
Then it started happening more often. When I laid on my back feeling the grass beneath me as I soaked in the sun, or when I admired a bouquet of flowers. Without warning, I would find my heart swelling with massive amounts of appreciation for the present moment.
One day, while driving and completing work errands, it struck again. I became so aware of how absolutely awesome it was to have a functioning, reliable car. A car I never worried about breaking down or being unavailable. Here I was, getting all emotional about my car, when normally I’d be lamenting the music on the radio or the not so courteous drivers out and about. What was happening to me?
It turns out, I had cracked myself open to feeling gratitude.
I understood gratitude and very much appreciated it, but for the longest time it resided in my mind as thoughts and words. The whole heart bursty thing? Only once in a while and just for those big, special moments.
But as I began to warm from the numbness I used to cope with living an unfulfilled life, I started to feel again, more than I had ever before, and about everything.
Gratitude became an experience of the heart, involving surrender and presence.
On gratefulness.org, the late Angeles Arrien writes, “Gratitude is essentially the recognition of the unearned increments of value in one’s experience—the acknowledgment of the positive things that come our way that we did not actively work toward or ask for.”
Hell, yes! Every day, I am bestowed so many things that simply aren’t owed to me. I surrender to the notion that many of the factors that contribute to what I feel is a blessed life are completely beyond my doing.
It is by great fortune I was born in a country that values my contribution not as a woman, but as an equal person. I live five minutes from beautifully landscaped parks, paths and water where I take walks every day. My neighborhood has an abundance of inexpensive flowers stands meaning I get to fill my home with beauty all year long.
I didn’t choose to be born in this country, I don’t maintain the parks and I certainly don’t grow the flowers, yet every day I enjoy the value it adds to my life. I am damn lucky and discounting any of it would be entitled and foolish.
Recognizing and seeing everything as a gift has made life so much richer and more fulfilling. Viewing life through this lens has deepened the empathy, love and compassion I feel for others. I am compelled to give selflessly and freely, because hoarding what was never really mine to begin with just isn’t how it works.
Most importantly, learning to live presently has opened the door to feeling gratitude at full strength, any time I choose. I don’t have to wait for those BIG, MEANINGFUL things to happen anymore because it can all be had in the smallest, simplest moments. As my noisy thoughts slip away, I tune in to the reality of the moment. My heart takes centre stage, expressing its awe of all that surrounds me, and off I go with my Care Bear stare.