Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Gratitude Solves All Problems"

Over the past year, I have been collecting the blogs of people living "alternative" forms of career. Or, you might say, doing lives in a form different from the wage an hour, 9-5 setting. One thing I've noticed amongst nearly everyone writing these blogs is a passion for life that bleeds through their words. Even when they're writing about something miserable, about some form of suffering, there's still an energy quality present that I find myself attracted to. An underlying joy or ease perhaps? I haven't quite pinned it down, and don't think "it" ever will.

One of the blogs I follow is called "Zen Habits." It's author, Leo Babauta, is clearly influenced by Buddhism, although I don't know whether he actually practices or not. This is what he says his writing is about:

"Zen Habits is about finding simplicity in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness."

Now, much can be said about what might be called the "simplicity movement." I know Katie over at Kloncke once made some astute criticisms about how simplicity advocates tend to speak to middle and upper class folks, and often fail to comment on forms of systemic injustice that often stand in the way of poor and working class people benefiting. Another way to look at it is that it's often an individualist or nuclear family centric approach.

So, wit that said, I like Leo's blog because while it does appeal to that middle class, consumerist crowd in need of "downsizing" their attachments to stuff and other clutter, it's not limited to that. Some of the articles could easily be used by someone who is totally broke and trying to figure out how to financially support themselves in a more beneficial manner. And some of the posts are simply redirecting our attention, drawing from Buddhist and other spiritual teachings.

Anyway, I don't want to just plug Leo's blog here, but to bring up what he wrote in a recent post.

Gratitude solves all problems. I am grateful for having this friend, or stranger, in my life, and I’m grateful for the chance to even be here, and for the incredible life I have.

Sounds really simple, doesn't it? Also might sound like nonsense to the practical mind. And it's true, "problems" in the relative sense don't get "solved" by simply being grateful. I've spent large chunks of time down at our Occupy Wall Street offshoot in Minneapolis this past week precisely because there are complicated social issues that need to be approached in a radically different manner.

However, go back to that first sentence. "Gratitude solves all problems." I think this is a perfect way to describe the tapping into one's buddhanature. The universal energy flowing through everything all the time. That "place" where it is all ok right now.

Gratitude breaks through suffering. I've felt that over and over again in my own life. May you have as well. And for all of our ability to produce endlessly "profound" spiritual teachings as a species, it so often does come back to something simple that we can rely on. Trust in. While working to address all the complications standing before us.

So, bows to Leo for the reminder. May you all experience gratitude today.


Anonymous said...

"it's not limited to that" - correct use of it's i.e., it is

"it's author" - incorrect use of it's. No apostrophe is used for the possesive.

By the way, donations are given to nonprofits. People receive gifts, which at a certain level are reportable income for tax purposes.

Nathan said...

Thanks. I've made mistakes like that for years, despite all the education and language teaching under my belt. It will probably happen again.

As for the donation button, I'm going to leave it. The word "donation" often is linked to non-profits, but is not limited to that form of giving.

Max said...

I love Leo's post and your elaboration on it. It resonates with an insight I felt in the last week or so.

I went to my weekly Vipassana night and the teacher was a guy named Tony Bernhart, one of my favorites (we have a rotating set of teachers). As I watched him give his dharma talk, I wondered what it was that was special about him. Then it hit me. He seemed genuinely happy to be alive. I realized I very rarely have the same feeling, but when I do, it feels like the most important moment there can be.

It's part of really understanding what it means to be alive. We're not entitled to it. It just happened, and it's something to appreciate. It occurred to me then that maybe that's all that is really meant by enlightenment.

Nathan said...

Thanks for sharing the excellent story Max! It's so true that when someone is genuinely displaying happiness and joy, it feels "special" because we don't see it very often.

Jon said...

I too have found that practicing conscious gratitude for the many good things in my life (including my health, my favorite cafe', now this nice blog) to be very powerful.
Thanks for the post - it was a good reminder.