As David Steindl-Rast points out, we experience gratitude – we are able to be grateful – when we know our hearts as spilling over with appreciation for all that’s around us and within us.
And there’s no shortage of life to fill us up.
We needed do nothing to be given life, air, trees, sky, earth.
Other people dreamed up and made and brought us trains and cars, electricity and hot water, paper, pens, computers, steel and wooden beams to build our houses, and interlocking institutions, intentions, people and practices that teach us, care for our health and security, collect taxes, entertain us, feed us, sustain us.
We are inheritors of untold riches in the work of novelists, scientists, poets and philosophers. We needed do nothing to find ourselves in a world where all of this surrounds us, always.
But when we experience our hearts as spilling over, when our cup is full, we so often try to make the cup bigger. As if, now we’re filled, it’s necessary to be filled up with more. The bigger the cup gets, the more it needs filling, and the less of the spilling over of gratitude and gratefulness we experience.
We replace a life of wonder with a life of grasping. A life of what’s here, with a life of what isn’t. And a life in which we know ourselves and the world as enough, with a life in which we’re always disappointed and despairing, and always wanting more.
I’m writing about this today because I notice how often I fall into this way of seeing the world. And it seems to me that my work, perhaps the work of many of us, is to teach ourselves again and again to cultivate in us that which can love the world just as it is. To remember how to be cups that can spill over in response to the world, right at the same time as we strive, in all the ways we do, for there to be more of whatever it is to which we’ve dedicated ourselves.
And what seems wonderful about all this to me is that the more grateful I can be at what is, the more capacity and energy I find in myself to make right what is not.