Monday, May 31, 2010

Gratitude Keeps Us Current

"Newborn" 5x8" acrylic by S'zanne Reynolds

"That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet."
--Emily Dickinson

A story from "Attitudes of Gratitude" by M.J. Ryan

"Last night I watched my daughter Ana, whom we recently adopted from China, lie on the bed in an ecstatic trance of bottle-sucking. Her eyes closed, her rosebud mouth pursed, her exquisitely long fingers curled around the plastic bottle, she gave herself over to the experience. She wasn't obsessing on past wounds, although perhaps she had a right to. Neglected for over a year, when we got her she had second-degree burns on her buttocks from lying in urine. Nor was she worrying about where future bottles might come from, although she had a right to do that also. Abandoned on Christmas evening on a cold street until someone heard her newborn cries, she had been fed only watered-down milk and seemed to be starving the first few weeks we fed her.

Rather, she was so focused on appreciating the warm milk as it went down her throat that everything else, past and future, simply disappeared. As I looked at her, I realized that this total and complete absorption in the present moment is available to us all when we choose to let gratitude wash over us uninhibitedly.

But many of us have been taught not to give ourselves over so fully to something or someone. As a child, I believed that you couldn't let yourself become totally immersed in an experience, because something bad might be happening as your attention is diverted. My parents used to say that as a child they never saw me asleep; I always had one eye open, alert to disaster.

But if Ana, who has suffered so much in her very short life, can giver herself over to the joy of completely appreciating her bottle, can't i allow myself in this moment to fully appreciate the sweet peas on my desk, the wonder of being able to think and read and write?

As I allow myself to open to the fullness of gratitude, the past and future fade away and I become more alive in the present moment. That's because gratitude is, for the most part, about the here and now. While we can be thankful for past blessings and hope for future ones, when we experience a sense of gratefulness, we are usually contemplating some present circumstance. We are brought up to date with ourselves. Our focus moves away from all that we or others did or failed to do in the past, or what we hope for or worry about in the future, and we find ourselves placed squarely in this precious moment, this experience that will never happen again.

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