“I’m thinking – I owe you one” – Han Solo (deleted scene, “Return of the Jedi”)
Imagine coming home to find your home has been looted and burned to the ground. You see the devastation and walk in mute shock through the ruins. Disbelief, anger, and grief kick in. Then you remember that everyone close to you is OK, that you are alive, and you still have two hands and a will to rebuild. Property was lost but the things that truly matter remain.
When Seneca the Roman Stoic philosopher was ordered to commit suicide by the Emperor Nero he beseeched his grieving family to be grateful for the time they had enjoyed together, to be grateful for what they still had. The Stoics were grateful for each day. They contemplated the inevitability of death daily and it taught them to live more fully and with gratitude.
In every grave situation we find ourselves there is cause for sorrow but there is also cause for gratitude. It is often not until we are faced with calamity and loss that we realise this fact. When you pause and count your blessings despite your losses you experience nothing less than a divine sense of gratitude.
I Owe You One
Star Wars is full of acts of gratitude. The heroes in the story suffer defeat and loss yet are always able to count their blessings in the presence of their friends.
In “The Return of the Jedi” Luke travels to Tatooine where he rescues Han Solo and Princess Leia and finally defeats Jabba the Hutt. Later Han expresses his gratitude to Luke via a comlink as they are departing the planet for separate destinations. In a deleted scene Han expressed his thanks in person. It is a touching and heartfelt moment between the two great friends. Han needed to express gratitude for their friendship.
In “Attack of the Clones” Cleig Lars and Anakin Skywalker attend the grave site of Shmi Skywalker. They pay homage in gratitude to mother and wife. The scene is heart wrenching and shows that gratitude is an expression of love.
Being in recovery has taught me to remember what it was like and how things could be if I had not sought and won sobriety. The end of the road was certain to lead to despair, insanity and death. I am reminded to be grateful and to remember that I could lose it all at a moments notice.
A Daily Ritual
A daily practice should include a period of self-reflection and gratitude. You can do this as part of a morning meditation or as part of a daily journal. It could be that you are enjoying success or have landed a new opportunity that you worked hard to get. You may have finished a project or completed a test. Having a job, earning an income, having food on the table, a roof over your head, being healthy and alive in the moment are all things we often take for granted.
Being grateful in the face of loss and adversity does not mean resigned acceptance of the situation. It should never leave you feeling impotent, helpless and playing the victim. You are responsible for getting active your own recovery. Whether it is recovery from addiction, financial loss, sudden unemployment, a broken down relationship, loss of property or the loss of a loved one.
Call to Action
You can take steps to re-frame our problems. Every negative has a positive if we look hard enough. Life does not have to be about reactivity. Meditating on the negative aspects of life can help in understanding them in context. Is it such a big deal? Would we be much better off if the problem did not exist? Does the problem present opportunities?
Acceptance is a way to resolve issues. We have a choice, we can either do something about them or not. Sometimes it is better to act, sometimes it is better to wait and at times, no action is the answer. Denying that the problem exists is no solution as eventually it will force us to face it, possibly under worse conditions. Acceptance is also putting aside pride and being willing to accept the help of others.
Once we have accepted our problems, we need to commit to doing something about them now, later, or never. Decide and stick to it. Adjust and calibrate if needed but resolve to see things out. Act to resolve the issue. Act mindfully understanding that our actions may have unwanted consequences.
Gratitude is the Attitude
List five things to be grateful for. Make it a habit every day to remind yourself that there are always five things you can name which you can be grateful for. List them in your journal or meditate on them.
The ancient Stoics would rise early in the morning and greet the rising sun. It was an act of self-discipline to get out of a warm bed when others were still asleep. The majesty of the sunrise and the fresh air more than compensated for it. As the sun rose in all its splendour the Stoics would contemplate their own mortality and insignificance in the universe and experience nothing less than gratitude for being alive and being able to witness the birth of a new day.
Today is a gift. Use it.