Gratitude and Patience

I remember reading a book (more than 30 years ago) entitled, Gratefulness: The Heart of Prayer by Brother David Steindl-Rast. I am reminded every moment of the author’s message. When I chant a mantra, it is a prayer of gratitude‚ÄĒgratitude for being able to take a breath, to feel the sun and wind caress my face, to experience the warmth of loving relationships, and to offer my life in service to others. But this gratefulness transcends the “warm and fuzzy” moments of life.

Gratitude allows us to maintain a stable mind in the face of challenging circumstances. We are often blind to the simple fact that the person toward whom we may harbor negative feelings is just like us. He or she is attempting to make some sense out of life and be happy. When we judge others out of our anger, it is like hating someone we see as hateful. This never helps. Shantideva, author of The Way of the Bodhisattva, taught a profound connection between patience and gratitude when he suggested to remember all things arise from certain conditions we may or may not be able to see. When we are patient enough to allow others their experience without our emotion driven judgments, we can receive valuable lessons and grow compassion.

Those who stir us up perform the service of revealing our unliberated emotional habits. They show us where we are stuck. If we can see this, we have the opportunity to deepen our capacity to love. If we emotionally react out of habit, we perpetuate our hidden issues only to surface again in the next conflict. If we patiently observe our reaction, it is possible to liberate the pattern and discover restful awareness even amidst challenges. We can then act with more insight and find skillful means to resolve conflict.

So, in this time we designate as Thanksgiving, may we make an effort to be truly grateful for everything. May we rededicate ourselves to meditation practice with the intention to transform wild untamed emotions into compassionate action. As Shantideva observed, “there is no enemy worse than anger and no ally more valuable than patience.” Maybe a good book title would be, Patience: The Heart of Gratefulness.

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