Cicero called gratitude the greatest virtue and mother of all the other virtues. But beyond a long dead politician’s ideas about virtuosity, gratitude is a life changing ingredient that is transformative in its application. Cicero may have celebrated it, but gratitude has not always been one of the most widely espoused virtues, so why would it be called the mother of them all? And why might we need it now more than ever?
One of the reasons is its capacity to reinvent our perspective. Whatever is in our present pot, gratitude can transform it. It’s a powerful alchemical ingredient that has the power to redesign the fundamental chemistry of any given situation.
The art of gratitude is in making it indelible, incorruptible and unwavering. Like breathing, gratitude can be ever present - a given in all circumstances. It is easy to be grateful when we have just reached an epoch of success or ecstasy, or finally made it to that long dreamed of destination, or into the arms of our beloved. But gratitude is not just about celebrating the wins and pleasure in life, it’s also a magical ingredient for when we are down in the trenches, in the thick of it all, dealing with whatever new challenge life has thrown at us. Whatever that may be. It’s about lifting ourselves (and others) up, rising above the shitty moments, the inconveniences, the fuck ups, and when things are definitely not going our way. These can be the moments when gratitude is most powerfully deployed and most profoundly experienced.
Because gratitude is about being grateful, regardless. Unlike a lover you only call when you are in town, or a habit you indulge once in a while, gratitude is a stalwart, a bestie, a forever after, and a bae for life. Why? For one thing, because of the miracle that is you, being here, breathing, in this body, right now. Which is always the case.
It’s not about an insipid, insincere, forced appreciation of a dire scenario either. If life has dealt us lemons, it’s fair to call them lemons and figure out a recipe for lemonade. But invoking gratitude naturally reminds us that there are almost always things to be grateful for. We are breathing. Our blood is flowing and our organs are functioning. We (most likely) have food and water available. We have possibilities. We have a choice.
In modern life where convenience and consumerism are paramount, and the immediate and narcissistic tend to take precedent (just take the indomitable rise of the selfie), a few moments spent each day reflecting on what we are grateful for can balance out the time we spend dwelling on what is lacking in our lives. It has the capacity to supersede the wants, needs, wish I had’s and gotta-get’s in the unending, competitive race for fulfilment, and bring us back to a powerful space from which we are a privileged, conscious observer of life itself. When we consider the bigger picture through the prism of gratitude, just being here on earth in this enormous expanding universe is something to be grateful for - and a pretty humbling and mind-blowing place to be. From here, whether our i-phone charger broke today, or we didn’t get that promotion we wanted, or we couldn’t make it to that event, all becomes subsumed and secondary.
Gratitude costs nothing but when we practice gratitude, our world can change. One of gratitude’s most noticeable side effects is a natural impetus to give, and that giving can take many forms. Though traditional in many cultures, it’s not always required to show gratitude through physically gifting something. It’s not necessarily about dropping our pants, emptying our wallets or surrendering our resources to display to a person or the world how grateful we are. At its core, gratitude is a relationship to life itself, a medium through which we can communicate with and shape our reality. When we are grateful, our mindset is abundant and we can see infinite possibilities, empowering us to act from a place of peace and inspiration. Gratitude is also contagious - not only does it change our own inner world, but that change naturally touches others.
Gratitude is always available, no matter the situation. It’s a short cut to an elevated perspective, and can propel us to a plateau from which we are able to perceive from a viewpoint that takes into consideration the monumental amount of circumstances that brought us to the present moment, and give us the grace to wonder at them… Being grateful is not, thankfully, dependent upon a perfect arrangement of external circumstances. It is a personal choice that is always possible, a means to determine what matters to us in our lives, and a medium through which we can participate in creating the moments to come.
So next time the shit hits the fan, take a breath and remember gratitude. It’s always yours to receive, and to give, and its as free as the air you breathe…