A Meditation on Gratitude

 The landscape of my mornings is grey, industrial.  Walls of semi trucks hem me in on the freeway in my predawn commute.  The light comes in thin beams and pools, from hundreds of headlights, taillights, street lamps, but it is feeble, spotty, shifting.  No match for the darkness that sprawls across the horizon.

Everything looks grey in this half-light, and with the color all gone out of everything, the buildings and miles of asphalt seem to dominate my field of vision.  The walk from my car to the office is a concrete maze, long serpentine swaths of sidewalk, walls rising up around me on all sides, everything that same grey.

I arrive cloudy, as if all that grey has bled onto me a bit.  The morning is half gone by the time I realize my face has settled into a vaguely grim expression.  A hardness around the eyes, lips pressed into a thin line.

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It's not just the tangle of traffic and the dark mornings.  Somehow lately a creeping, pervasive sense of dissatisfaction has settled over me.  I greet the day already behind, feeling the world owes me some debt it has not made good on.  It seems there is never enough, not enough time, not enough money, not enough rest.  Slowly my default has gotten reset to not enough, and yet it is suddenly that I notice it,  when I catch in my mid-morning reflection the grim expression my face has adopted.

I know the prescription for this creeping malaise, know it because it is a solvent for most maladies of the spirit.  But it must be applied daily.  Every single day without fail because as soon as you stop, the malaise begins to build again.

I start with the view outside my window, where the sun is high and the world has regained its color.  The trees shimmy in the late October wind, the pedestrians stream by, the cars slide along in a blur.  Everything is life and movement.

Then I move on to my hands, watching their understated brilliance as they flex and release these ten healthy fingers.  I feel the air come in and out of my lungs, breathing as a conscious act, breathing as a prayer of gratitude.  The muted purr of respiration is a lyric I sing over and over, finding the reverence in the unwavering repetition.  I am life and movement, a masterfully built machine whose own mechanics remain unnoticed unless they falter.

I am breathing in and out a prayer of gratitude for my life, these eyes that see, these hands that clutch and lungs that gasp.  I am beginning the slow work of resetting my default, recovering the wonder of being alive, of being given another day to breathe prayers and pump blood in and out of the pulsing knot of muscle in my chest.  It is one small treatment, a dose of gratitude.  In my mind, I say the words thank you for giving me this day, and in saying it try my best to mean the day I have been given, grey and traffic and all, not some other imaginary perfect day.

It is a beginning, and for today it is enough.  Thank you for giving me this day, grey as it began, green as it became, black as it will end.  I've been too long away from the medicine of simple gratitude, and my spirit has grown cloudy.  Tomorrow will need another dose.  And the day after and the day after.


  1. So true. So simple, but sometimes so difficult.


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