Gratitude – Not Because We Should, But Because We CAN
One of those freaky, terrifying moments. Driving late at night on a dark country road. I’m fine in my lane. Another car makes too wide of a turn from an intersecting road and suddenly – oh no! Not this! – the car is coming straight toward me in my lane. I brake and scream as that driver swerves back into their own lane. !!! Five seconds later, we pass each other on the road as though nothing had happened.
Except that what did happen was something bad didn’t happen. I was alive, and so very grateful to be alive. Whatever else ever happens to me in my entire lifetime, I’m alive and get to deal with it.
We practice gratitude for the bad things than don’t happen as well as for the many miraculous good things that do happen. And we practice gratitude not just because we should but because we can.
Take a moment right now, or sometime later today, to identify three bad things that could have happened, but didn’t. You tripped on a crack in the sidewalk, fell to your hands and knees, but didn’t break any bones. You almost tossed an envelope with a check in it into the recycling but noticed in time. A precious cup, a gift from my brother, didn’t smash as it fell off the counter onto the kitchen floor. Your neighbor spit out a hard piece of candy rather than choking. The lump in a friend’s breast was just a benign cyst, easily drained.
Paying attention to the bad things that don’t happen means that we are paying attention, and noticing the miraculous ways our lives are supported by life, moment by moment, all day long. That can build a sense of trust in the overall benevolence of life that can be a much needed resource when the bad things do happen.
1. At the end of the day today, reflect on your day and write down three bad things that could have happened, but didn’t. You didn’t slam your finger in the car door when a gust of wind suddenly blew it shut. You can even imagine what could have gone wrong and didn’t – leaving essential files at home rather than bringing them to the meeting. You’re simply training your mind to pay attention and notice.
2. Begin to notice what might go wrong yet doesn’t as you go through the day every day. This is not to encourage catastrophic thinking, but simply to train the mind to notice the good fortune we experience all day long, that often doesn’t register in conscious awareness at all.
3. Pass this exercise along to two friends, then share at the end of a week of practice what all three of you have noticed, and how your experience of yourself and your life might be evolving with this practice.