Updated: Apr 28, 2021
How long does it take you to make this list? Why is it important to make it at all?
Gratitude is a core value that has been taught and promoted in many religions and spiritual practices. Gratitude is an act of acknowledging and appreciating the kindness, the favours that other people have done for us.
Cows consume grass and afterwards fertilize the soil with their droppings so the grass can grow back. Imagine what would happen if the cows just consume the grass and do not actually offer its droppings back to the soil? Plants would not grow, and the ecosystem will be disrupted. The same applies to our society, if everyone only knows how to take and is not willing to give back, it will be only a matter of time before we see the world devoid of any kindness or generosity. It will become so lifeless like a tree in winter or as dry as the desert.
That is why gratitude is important. Without this quality, people will be filled with selfishness, without any sense of connection with others. Let's be honest, if people don't appreciate the help, do you still want to offer them help anymore? Even though we don't want anything in return, lack or absence of appreciation could send a message to us that the help wasn't necessary. Such kinds of people could have a hard time integrating into society too. Why? For one, the issue comes from within themselves, as they will always feel on-guard, as if at any minute now someone would try to take things away from them the same way they want to take from other people. For most people, it is logical that we prefer to spend our time and energy helping someone who appreciates our help instead.
Gratitude is like a root to the tree of goodness. If one possesses this quality, other good qualities will then follow. First, the people who feel grateful towards the things around them tend to see only the good in others. A positive mindset you may say. Not only that, but people with gratitude will naturally carries loyalty within them. As they feel thankful, they feel they owe the debt of gratitude, and they will continue to pay it happily.
Of what and to whom do we owe our gratitude? How should we express gratitude?
1. Those who have done us good
Anyone that expresses their kindness towards us deserves our gratitude. We may express gratitude through words, through materials, or through our time and energy and, depending on the depth of the feeling we have, we could do it for a lifetime. I still remember my older cousin who stays at our house since I was very young. We offered her a place to stay so that she could do her undergraduate studies without having to worry about the rent or living expenses. Over 15 years later, she still comes to our house every new year, never with empty hands. Every time she comes, she also reminds us of the good deeds we do. As much as she feels thankful towards us, we also feel thankful to have her. It also encourages us to help more people.
2. People around us
The 6 directions: Parents, Spiritual Teacher & Teaching, Our teachers, Employers & Employees, our friends, our partners.
The people to whom we owe the most favour in this world are our parents. They have given us life, protection and care before anyone else. From spiritual guides and teachers, we receive teachings that help give us the wisdom to pass through dark times and find light from within. From our teachers at school, we receive knowledge to develop our skill in life. Our employers and employees work hand in hand to support our economy. Our friends and partners always have our back and stick with us through thick and thin. A buddha once taught a man to honour these 6 directions, as they represent the 6 types of connection among every person and his/her duty towards them. When you are able to honour these connections, you shall live in harmony, security and prosperity.
3. The animals that serve us
Some animals are used to help with farming, some are raised as livestock, some are raised as pets that keep us company. In any way, they serve us, by doing our work, giving us food and even healing our souls. We can show back our appreciation by spreading loving kindness, practising mindful consumption, donating or supporting those who are working to save and protect them.
4. Objects that serve us
Even objects can help us; they include our clothes, learning materials, books, or any other tools we use to make a living. They serve us and benefit us. Though they are not living beings, we still need to practice gratitude towards them, taking care of them so they can last long. It's about training our mind to appreciate. For example, someone gives us an outfit. We feel grateful for the gift and the person who has given it to us. Every time we use it, we feel thankful, we use it with care so it will last longer and remain in a good condition. When it no longer serves you any purpose, you can still be proud to hand it down to someone else that needs it. Throughout this whole process, we cultivate positivity, kindness, generosity for our mind; simply starts from gratitude.
5. Your own positive actions
The positive things you've done attract positive things in life, including good people, education, and the ability to stay on the bright side of the world. How can we show gratitude towards our good merit? By doing more of it and not taking it for granted. Try with our utmost effort to do more of it and recall it often and rejoice in your own merits. Those actions could be: giving away to charity, upholding good values and morals, and practising meditation.
6. Our own body
Our own body is the main channel for our current existence; without a healthy body, what can we accomplish? So we need to honour it by keeping it healthy. Be active, exercise, eat healthily, maintain work-life balance. Do not seek distractions through intoxicants, or commit bad things that demerit and attract negative things to your life.
7. Our mind
Mind is an intangible thing, we can't touch or see it with our physical eyes yet it holds the secret to our happiness. The mind paints the image of life. With beautiful thoughts, life seems colourful; with dark thoughts, life seems grey. Often the mind was left in the control room by itself, covered in dust and impurities. Have we ever befriend with our mind ? Look after it, care for it, shower it and let it rest? Just like our body, our mind is the other core part of our existence. To keep it healthy, practice meditation, fill it with positive thoughts, centre it at the centre of your body from time to time to allow it to rest in its own home.
Nature, the earth, the environment around us, they are our home. Aren't we feeling great being able to breathe in the fresh air, be surrounded by greenery, enjoying the abundance of food and resources that natures offer to us? Just like the cows and grass example at the beginning, in fact, our unmindful actions could really cause disruption to this balanced ecosystem that brings life to existence. This is all the more reason we should feel thankful. Be more mindful with our daily life, with how we manage our waste, or opting for the use of eco-friendly items. Try to live a moderate lifestyle, plant more trees, basically seeking ways to take better care of it.
All small actions can lead to big consequences just as Luang Phor Dhammajayo once said "Picking the flowers can affect even the stars".
9. The Breath
Our Breath is the greatest gift we receive since birth. The breath is a sign that we are alive. When we feel stressed, the breath allows us to be at the present and allows the body to rest. Try it for yourself, take a long deep breath in and out a few times and you will feel lighter. Honour our breath every time we wake up and before going to bed, spend a minute doing mindful breathing and centre the mind. Say thank you for being here with me.
10. Your current situation
Everyone was born with different conditions. Whatever it may be, the fact that we were born as human being and able to read this means we are in the lucky few. If you ever feel so unfortunate, so doomed about your life as if everything is falling apart, try to look at the ones in worse condition, and appreciate the spot you're in today. Your spot might be the dream spot of many. Feel thankful for every moment and everything around you and you shall see only the positive light in life.
Big gratitude to the teaching of Luang Phor Dhattajevo in 38 Buddhist wisdom
Gratitude to the editor, my friend Kimsor Oeung
Channary Tauch A developer, a teacher, an entrepreneur, and a mindfulness and meditation trainer from World Peace Initiative Foundation. Nary has been actively involved in using technology to connect people to education and mental health. She believes in constant transformation and life-long learning, in which she is striving to develop herself and others through all possible means.