Be grateful for all the help that you receive, great and small. With that in mind, try to repay the kindness of others as best you can. If you do so, in the future there will always be more help on the way. ~ 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorge

I keep finding messages about gratitude in books, texts and blog posts, you name it I’ve seen it in the last few weeks. One of the more left field ones was a loving message about communicating gratitude to parts of our being and bodies, the example given was someone who hated her hips spending an entire week thanking them (silently one assumes …) for all the work they had done during her life, assisting carrying her children and so on. Not only did this woman lose weight without changing anything else but crucially she developed a different relationship with part of her body she’d been disconnected from for some time. Such a simple exercise but transformative.

Gratitude is often overlooked. What about expressing gratitude for the actions of others? The example that popped into my head was that of taking the time to speak to people serving in shops or selling the Big Issue, looking them in the eye and asking them how they are, and asking that question in a way that indicates you’re genuinely interested in the answer. This might be one way to demonstrate gratitude for the role they are playing in your life, no matter how temporarily.

What role might that be? Well, if we back this up a few stages and you think about the last meal you ate – where did it come from? Where were the ingredients grown? If you grew them yourself, who else assisted you in growing the produce? Who provided the seeds or plants, compost or water? Who delivered them to you and how? Who made the means of delivery? Who assisted them? Or, if you didn’t grow them yourself, how were these ingredients processed, and by whom? How did the ingredients make it to the shop or market where you bought them? What means were required for that delivery to occur? Who made that possible?

When you look at such a simple example as the meal on your plate, but look closely and scrutinise how that meal became possible we can very quickly begin to trace the links between ourselves and dozens if not 100s and 1000s of people and beings around us. Some of them have no connection whatsoever with growing the produce, but rather perhaps had a hand in designing or making a small part for a van that delivered it, or sourcing the oil to fuel the mode of transport, or perhaps they are ‘just’ the person on the till taking your money when you finally purchase it (or perhaps the persons involved in you having money to buy things in the first place?). But if any one of these links were missing that meal would not be possible, and so every single interaction is something for us to show gratitude for. Surely then gratitude has to go hand in hand with awareness ~ taking the time to be aware in every moment (or, at least, whenever possible) that there is something in our lives to be grateful for. And, as the 17th Karmapa notes, when we are aware and ‘pay forward’ all acts of kindness – no matter how small – there are always more to come in the future: and having honed our awareness, using the tool of gratitude, we are more likely to see and appreciate them for what they are.

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