The Feeling of Gratitude

By MJ Ali

There are endless articles online with helpful recipes on how to “practice” gratitude and what it will do for you. So, I’m just going to share my own thoughts here.

Gratitude is a feeling or emotion. It’s something that happens naturally as a result of being present. You know, a moment in time that seems to stand still when a sunset takes your breath away, or an unsolicited smile from a child warms you to the core. You’re not thinking in those moments. You’re just feeling. Time seems to stand still. That is a meditation. It’s that simple.

When I worked downtown I would walk before lunch, every day passing a homeless man tucked up against our building. He had a way of just being that reminded me of meditation. One day, I brought my lunch out and sat next to this man I later came to know as Joe, offered him half my food, and we sat and ate in silence together. When I got up to go back to work, I turned and said, “thanks for having lunch with me today.” He smiled, said thanks back, and nodded good bye.

This became a daily ritual. Sometimes we’d engage in deep conversation, sometimes we’d laugh and joke, and other times we’d just sit together. He was my parents’ generation, and it felt familial to interact with him. We’d thank each other for lunch, and he’d sometimes add a “you’re welcome” and chuckle, a sound that would warm my shoulders as I walked back to the office.

It was a given that Joe would be moving on as the weather got colder, and one day, when I came out and he wasn’t there, I found a note in our lunch spot that simply read, “You’re welcome. Love, Uncle Joe.” I feel tremendous gratitude for the simplicity and serendipity of that daily ritual—that meditation—with Joe.

Joe knew where to get food. It wasn’t about the food. That was just the medium through which we connected on a daily basis, with no agenda, a precious moment removed from the daily routine. Like sharing a meal with family. A meditation.

I feel gratitude for being taught to meditate as a child, a practice I continue today. It’s the simple practice of meditation that nurtures the feeling of gratitude. Meditation pulls me out of linear time and provides a new perspective without my head getting in the way. Meditation is so very simple, can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, for any length of time. Cleaning, doing dishes, walking, five minutes here, three minutes there. It can also be a set-aside daily ritual. There are no rules other than those set by you.

If we take a moment to breathe, to meditate, to just be in a moment without our heads getting in the way, feeling gratitude—and expressing that feeling—is inevitable.

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