These three parts of practicing joy aren’t necessarily in order of importance they are simply in order of what came to mind when thinking about my own experiences in regards to cultivating joy. For this third and final installment I would like to focus of gratitude.
Gratitude is an element of joy and joy, in turn, is an element of gratitude. Without an everyday practice of gratitude we are not investing our time in connecting with all of the many, many people, places, and things that are wonderful, plentiful, and add so much value and benefit to our lives. When we take for granted how many things are going well in our everyday lives and how good we really have it and instead place our precious time in complaining about what isn’t going our way or working out the way we wanted not only is our seed of gratitude very small but most likely so too is our seed of joy.
You might notice that those who regularly complain and focus on what isn’t going well seem to always have the worse luck and the most drama going on which never seems to lull. The more they are negative the more they encounter negativity. Which makes sense! We find what we seek in the world. There is also a tendency for these same people to be problem seekers rather than solution finders. If we have given up hope in the good of others (those who regularly complain are often doing so about other people) we will find ourselves surrounded with those in which will further our views. The practice of gratitude strengthens our versatility, adaptability, and acceptance of how life unfolds. If our basic needs are met (food, shelter, clothing) and we experience more suffering than joy on a regular basis, which is very common, our life perspective is being limited to only that in which isn’t going the way we planned – we need to cultivate more gratitude!
To be consumed in regrets about the past or worries about the future is to be disconnected from the here and now. It is not the unfolding of life that causes our difficulties it is the attachments we ourselves create to those events. The practice of gratitude widens our world view and helps us to connect with the present moment. If we do not yet understand that there truly are things to be grateful for in every moment, regardless of what else is going on, then we need to continue looking deeply into our habit energies and our interactions with the world. For many of us we are not yet shining the light on the whole picture if we do not think that we are surrounded by a myriad of things to hold dear and precious.
There will always be things to dislike, there will always be situations that makes us uncomfortable, there will always be things that happen that we don’t want to happen, there will always be life unfolding the way it will. There will also always be beauty, there will always be goodness occurring, there will always be things to be grateful for. If we only spend our time thinking that life isn’t supposed to be this way we are wasting precious time. We need to make the practice of gratitude important, because it is. If we are not rooted in gratitude then it will be impossible to develop true and lasting joy.