I often wonder how many people take a moment to reflect on the expanding circles of causes and conditions that created the life they’re experiencing today. I wish it weren’t the case, but it seems like so many of us focus on what we don’t have, how life is unfair, and how we’ve been mistreated more than we focus on gratitude for everything that we do have, and, for all that we are.
We couldn’t experience this precious life without a body. Sure, it may not resemble what our society and media tragically define as beautiful. It does, however, house our mind, and our spirit. In all its wonderous complexity, it allows us to move about, experience incredible sensations and emotions, and gives us the capacity to act on our thoughts. Our body is what gives us life. How often do we have gratitude for this miraculous form without which we could not experience anything? How often do we take for granted this body which came from the earth and one day, will return?
We couldn’t have this body, this life, without our parents, and all the generations before. Though we’ve all had different experiences with our parents, without them we could not exist. Some of us were raised by people other than our biological parents. We were, nevertheless, raised by someone. As infants and small children, we are helpless. We are utterly dependent upon help from others for our very survival. Someone in your past cared enough about you to provide for your needs. How often do we call these people to mind and thank them for our life?
Many of us had siblings who influenced the trajectory of our life. Our past is colored with all sorts of rich memories and experiences. Of course, in their misguidance, some may have steered us in a direction that may have led to suffering. Nevertheless, without a doubt we could not be who we are today without having them in our life. I understand that some families have such turbulent pasts that they don’t speak, but for the rest of you, when was the last time you told your siblings that you are grateful for them?
I’ve had wonderful friends and romantic partners throughout each stage of my life that helped me to grow into the person that I am today. With many of these people I have lost contact. Yet, through social media, there are many others whose path has once again crossed with mine. Our friends and lovers supported us. They understood when our parents or siblings did not. We trusted them and they trusted us. Many of us learned how to develop meaningful relationships through our best friends and partners. We could share our secrets with these people, knowing that they would never tell another soul. We would not be all that we are today without our intimate friends. How often do we think of and extend to them our gratitude?
Most of us were received into this world by the hands of a doctor or midwife. There are many others who helped heal us when we were ill and protected us from harm. We would not be who we are today without the compassion we received from countless nurses, therapists, and counselors. Police officers, firefighters and paramedics may have helped to save your life. Maybe they did it in such a way that you’ll never know about?
Throughout our life, we’ve had innumerable educators. Typically, when I think of teachers, school comes to mind. But there are many more people in our past who have guided our lives equally as much as our “school” teachers. Besides our parents, siblings, and friends, we’ve had aunts and uncles, priests and rabbis, coaches and troop leaders, store clerks and crossing guards. Maybe the janitor at your school taught you an invaluable lesson? Though we don’t like to admit it, some of our greatest lessons came from people who harmed us and made our life difficult. Are we grateful for what we have learned from those situations? We’ve also been challenged by acts of nature – COVID-19 for instance. Are we grateful for what we have learned? We grow the most when life is hard. How often do we have gratitude for all our teachers?
The widest circle includes the infinite number of souls who we’ll never know. These people grow and raise our food, manufacture goods and resources that are essential to life, build the roads we drive on and the cars we operate, and write and print the books we read. We can also thank the environments from which all these resources have been extracted and the evolutionary miracles that have shaped their existence.
I’m going to suggest that anything you possess, whether it be a thought, a feeling, the chair you sit on or the coffee in your cup, is only made possible because of others, all others.
The circles within and around us are boundless and ever-expanding. Please, take a little time to reflect on all the different people, places and things that support the life you have today. Something amazing happens when we do this. But I’ll let you find out for yourself what that is.
You are loved by me, Unconditionally.
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