Novemeber is the month when the focus of many in the USA shifts to giving and gratitude. It is perhaps brought on by the anticipation of the Thanksgiving season and the holidays that follow in the month of December. In order to honor giving (of thanks) and (the attitude of) gratitude, our four Sunday conversations in November will focus on four aspects of gratitude – the choices, the preparation, the expression, and the giving.
We begin with choices, and choosing gratitude. As I see it, our ability to choose is a wonderful freedom which we may often take for granted. In fact, the extent of how much inner freedom we experience may be directly correlated to the choices that we truly have. Beyond the number of choices, the quality of the choices that we are afforded is also important to our well-being. In order to dig a bit deeper, I came up with the following four classifications for our choices. I posit that true gratitude results from an optimal combination of one attribute from each class.
Class 1. The time-frame that the choice affects. It may be short (immediate), medium, or long. Of course, these are all ‘relative’ in nature – a ‘short’ time for us humans is an entire lifetime for a butterfly. But, sticking to humanity, the weight and consideration that we give to short-term choices is often much less than we give to our long-term ones. What we choose to eat for dinner is often an easy choice as compared to where we are going for vacation or what we choose as a career. Short. Medium. Long.
Class 2. The space-frame that the choice influences. These may be personal, local, or global. I could choose to sleep the extra fifteen minutes and lose my ‘window’ for morning meditation. The effect of that choice is mostly personal. Although, if said choice influences my attitude negatively, it could affect the locals around me. An example of a choice that (in)directly affects the local community, town or city around me is my decision at the voting booth. I would at least like to believe that it does. Examples of global influences of my choices would be ‘paper or plastic’, ‘GMO or non-GMO’, ‘gasoline or electric’ and so on. And then, of course, to weave the spaces all together is the ‘butterfly effect’. Not so cut and dry, is it?
Class 3. The domain that the choice impacts. Mind, Body or Spirit. What we choose to input into our mind (through our senses) is a qualified choice that we make in every moment. As I write this post, there are a lot of external inputs competing for my mindspace. I am choosing to actively filter out a lot of the inessential ones. I hope I am choosing well for the sake of some degree of coherence. The body and its well-being is largely dependent on the quality of our food and air and water choices. And what about our spirit? How do we make choices that will be helpful and healthful for the heart and spirit? We may have to make choices that address the health and healing of our mind and body. Then, within a sound, healthy mind and body, gratitude will flourish, and our spiritual choices will be most impactful to us and those around us.
Class 4. Our choices affect our attitudes. According to Sage Patanjali, these are – compassion (towards suffering), joy (in their joy), friendship (to those friendly to us), and indifference (to those of wicked intent). It is when our choices grow these four attitudes in a positive way, that inner gratitude manifests fully. Our peace becomes unshakable and has a permanence about it. In such choosing, we are not anxious or fearful that our choices are going to be negated by those made by others. We have made our choice in the highest awareness possible to us in the current state of our mind, body and spirit.
There are a lot of possibilities for us in our choices, particularly when we view them in the four-class framework presented above. In fact, there are one hundred and eight of them. As we live our lives, and make our conscious, sub-conscious and super-conscious choices, we can use this classification to help guide us. If the classes seem arbitrary or incomplete to you, I invite and welcome you to extend, modify and edit them. Create your own choice framework. Play with it. Evaluate it from time to time.
Above all, I know that our freedom to choose, even if others consider us to be making a mistaken choice, is our greatest freedom (Mahatma Gandhi). And for that, we can be grateful. Isn’t that wonderful?
Join us in our weekly #SpiritChat on twitter – Sunday, November 6th 2016 at 9amET/2pmUTC/7:30pm India. Let us discuss our choice framework with a sense of gratitude. Namaste 🙂 (Note that the USA reverts to ‘Standard Time’ this Sunday, so adjust your clocks if you are in the USA. For other countries, the chat will happen an hour later than usual – unless you are choosing to push back your clocks by an hour too!)