Today I turn 35 years old. When I woke up this morning the first thing I thought about was gratitude. I’ve been trying to do this as much as possible when I wake up. Perhaps for the last few weeks or so, I’ve been focusing on gratitude during my meditations. Then, in the last ten days or so I began reflecting on the fact that I’ll have been alive for 35 years. It seems like it should be significant, but it’s not. Well, at least not to me. But over this last week and a half I kept waking up with the thought of gratitude in my mind, and I began to experiment with a mantra. I finally whittled it down to these five sentences, said silently with each of the first five deep breaths I take when I get to my mat in the morning:
I am grateful for this day
I am grateful for this moment
I am grateful for this breath
I am grateful
Though it may be simple, I can’t quantify how much more I’ve paid attention to the present moment because of those few words. I feel more grateful with every breath because I’m really beginning to realize how much every day matters, just like my mother’s wooden sign says. The most trivial happenings make me smile like a fool sometimes. Yesterday when Erin and I were on our way to our anniversary lunch, I was thrilled to see that the goats were out on a particular street. It doesn’t take much, believe me. So that’s what I keep thinking about—gratitude for the here and now.
This past spring, I showed my students several clips from an introductory philosophy documentary, Examined Life. Listening to the words of Cornel West, a seed must have been planted within me. In his final segment, Dr. West illustrates how our need for completeness and wholeness in the Romantic sense makes us view the passage of time with dissatisfaction. Focusing on the regrets and missed opportunities enslaves us to a past we can no longer correct. He goes on to state that perhaps that’s the wrong idea, the wrong perspective. Maybe, West says, we should focus our gratitude on the time that we have been allotted. In his words, “time is a gift…time is a giver.” I think he’s right on both accounts. It’s not just our birthday that should be celebrated, but every day. Each time we wake we have another chance to take control of our lives and try to better ourselves just a little bit more.
The one thing I am most grateful for today, however, is Erin. She has made my life so wonderful that those words or any others I type from here on out could never possibly express what she has meant or means to me. I tell everyone that I meet that I would not be the person I am today if it were not for her. She has such a good heart and has taught me the true meaning of love. And not only is she the best gift, but she gave me the second best gift for my birthday this year. As cheesy as this is going to sound, I’ve really wanted to get one of those family doodle stickers on the back of the car for the longest time. Probably for close to a year. She told me this morning that she had been hoping for the last six months that I wouldn’t order one for myself. Well, now I have the coolest 2006 Scion Xa in town—reppin’ the fam:
I really like the sticker for two reasons: Erin and I are busting some yoga; Cleo, Britty, and Richard Parker are not only distinct, but accurately scaled. Seriously, the cat’s a monster. But then again, I shouldn’t be surprised. This is Erin who designed it. Among her diversified talents, artistic ability is certainly one.
I know that today is supposed to be a special day—and it is—but I also realize it is just another day. Another present moment, which is the real gift. The more that I focus on gratitude in my life, the easier it becomes to stay in the moment. It’s not always easy, though. Certainly there are times reserved for reflection and distraction, but they’re getting fewer in frequency. If anything, the routine of my everyday life contributes to this new sense of well being because I am grateful for every aspect of it. It may be simple, but it suits me just fine.
Before you go, I’d like you to reflect on a few things in your life for which you’re most grateful. I’m sure some people will be at the top of your list. Tell them. More importantly, tell them the reason for your gratitude. I’m sure it will mean a lot to the both of you. Now go enjoy your present moment…I have a whole lot left in this one, that’s for sure.