When Gratitude Doesn’t Come Easily, Try Forgiveness

A colleague recently introduced to me to Timber Hawkeye and Buddhist Bootcamp.

He’s a breath of fresh air. Trained in Zen Buddhism, with years spent in retreat, Timber Hawkeye speaks in a down-to-earth way about meditation and mindfulness.

He was inspired to make the sometimes mind-blowingly cerebral teachings of Buddhism simple. His solution? He says there’s one core practice, in two words: Be grateful.

Gratitude is a powerful teaching, one that’s at the heart of every spiritual tradition. We all know that. I’ve tried to put it into practice.

The first thing I do when I wake up is put my hands over my heart, feel my heart beating, take a few deep breaths and say “thank you.” Gratitude for my health, for my husband, for my family and friends, for my work, for my home. Thank you for this breath.

It’s a habit. And as we all do with habits, sometimes I go through the motions. Sometimes I say the words but I don’t feel them. They seem empty. Once in a blue moon I’ll wake up rushed and forget to be grateful, or I’ll wake up in a foul mood and I just won’t feel like being grateful.

And then I feel terrible, like I’m just the worst person on earth. I mean, how can I not be grateful? I have a wonderful life, full of so many good things.

That’s when I remind myself to practice forgiveness.

Forgiveness of self can be a powerful practice, too. It’s something so many of us neglect. I’m not talking about letting yourself off the hook and skipping through your day mindlessly. I’m taking about looking at yourself gently and letting go. So often we extend patience and compassion to others while withholding that kindness from ourselves.

So I don’t torture myself anymore. On those days when I’m cranky and not feeling especially grateful, I look at that. Instead of thrashing myself for being a terrible person, I forgive myself quickly. I don’t make a big deal about it.

I just look at it. “Okay, Crankypants, you’re not feeling grateful right now. That’s okay.” I give myself a big virtual hug, and then I move on to what is before me.

And you know what? When I’m not hard on myself for being ungrateful, when I just let myself be … my sense of gratitude returns. It always does. Of course it does.

As Timber Hawkeye points out, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”

When we can redirect ourselves to this moment – as it is – we realize that what we have, always, is this moment. And it is always enough.

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