Being Grateful: Our First Step Towards Happiness
Recently, while throwing away garbage in a large bin outside my house, I encountered a man in his 50’s scouring the bin for cans and bottles. When I said hello, he returned with a hesitant smile and then turned his head away, feeling a little embarrassed. On my way back into my house, I was reflecting on the man’s situation, calculating that just to make a measly $50, he would have to collect 1,000 cans (at 5 cents per can). He would have to spend so much time going from house to house, building to building, just to make the minimum wage to support himself, let alone a family, so it was obvious to me that he was in a dire financial situation. At that moment, it really hit home how fortunate my life really is, and my heart swelled with deep gratefulness.
While I always say that I am enormously blessed that God has provided me with so much, I still have moments when I complain and feel frustrated about my life. After meeting the man in the bin, I felt guilty for even having the slightest complaints about my life. No matter how much we have, we all seem to complain. Nothing is ever good enough: money, relationship, work, etc. My friend told me that his ex-boss used to complain about being discriminated by handicapped people because there were fewer parking spaces available for those who could walk. She felt her life was inconvenienced because she had to take extra time to find parking space. Instead of recognizing daily difficulties of a disabled person’s life and being just so grateful for her ability to stand on two legs, she turned it into a complaint. From a scale of 1 to 10, her ungratefulness I would say is a 20! When you’re ungrateful, you become selfish and egocentric. And when the Universe does not revolve around you 24/7, then you just become frustrated over everything in your life, which spills over into the smallest issues, like the “lack” of parking space. So your whole life is consumed by complaining and more complaining.
Ungratefulness also rears its ugly head in so many other ways, especially in the form of greediness, where no amount of money is ever enough. I watched a video interview of a man named Sam Polk, who said that after receiving a 3.6 million dollar bonus at age 25 working in Wall Street, he was still unsatisfied. He elaborated that no matter how much money he or his colleagues would make, it was never enough. He thought by making more money, he was alleviating a deep-seeded inner fear, but as his bonuses kept getting bigger and bigger, his fear never got smaller and smaller. He finally had the wisdom to realize that, no matter how much money he made, his fear would never disappear — his life just spinning around in a vicious cycle of fear and unhappiness. By being ungrateful, you are eternally feeding unhealthy attitudes of greed and dissatisfaction, so regardless of how much more you get, you’re never internally fulfilled, so the level of stress and inner sufferings just keep heightening.
No matter how much or little we possess, the key to happiness is being grateful. Like the foundation of a house, gratitude is the building blocks for happiness. Without it, we can not make any other transformational changes in our lives. We must take the grateful 101 class before we can take any other life class. What is so wonderful about just being grateful is that it is so easy and simple. Just verbalizing quick thank you’s throughout the day will start to make a real shift in your attitude and how you see your life and the world.
We do not have to be a millionaire, win the lottery, or be cured of an incurable disease to be grateful in life. So whether you’re sitting in front of a meal or sitting at your work desk or at the gym working out, you can be thanking the Universe for that meal, job or health in your life. The most effective practice I found is to be grateful for the basic things in life we take for granted: eating, sleeping, waking up, walking and breathing. When I wake up, I thank God for a new day; when I walk, I thank God for my health; when I sleep, I thank God for the rest. We take such basic human activities for granted, but imagine what your life would be like without them. I remember when my sister Sun could not breathe, which was a symptom of her cancer, she said that it was the most frightening experience of her life. It is only when you can not breathe even for 5 seconds that you realize the preciousness of that one breathe. So do not take anything for granted and be thankful for every second and moment of your life.
When we operate based on gratefulness, we do not have unhealthy expectations, which is when we start to give, rather than receive. Tony Robbins says, “turn your expectation for appreciation and the world changes.” Being grateful can change the world because instead of operating based on what you can get because of selfishness, you now operate based on what you can give because of gratefulness, so we can have a positive impact in the world through our gratitude. Wow, how powerful is that?
For me, the most important gift I have received through my own gratefulness is awakening to my spirituality. Eckhart Tolle says, “It is through gratitude for the present moment that the spiritual dimension of life opens up.” Without gratitude, our spirit is blocked so our hearts are not able to receive higher messages of truth. By being grateful, we are opening the higher channels within ourselves that can receive those spiritual transmissions. And when our spiritual windows open, we feel the breeze of surrender and acceptance to the present moment, a peaceful state we all seek. So gratefulness is the primary way I can tap into my spirituality — my savior and anchor in life.
Gratefulness takes so little effort on our part yet produces such big rewards. Next time we look at that flower or tree or sunset in its beauty and perfection, we can thank God for all of the wonderful gifts we have been given to sustain us. The key to happy living is through gratefulness, so pick up that gratitude key and unlock the door to your own happiness!
By Moon Cho, Creator of Ying & Yang Living
P.S. And I am grateful to you for opening your hearts to receive this important message!