As the year comes to a close, I am reminded of one of my goals for 2016 (I’m not one for resolutions): to incorporate mindfulness into all aspects of my life. A huge part of making mindfulness a priority has come from practicing meditation. I wish I could tell you I practice daily, but that might be a bit of an exaggeration. Even so, I do my best. I love the Stop, Breathe, Think guided meditation app and this morning, after taking account of my mental and physical state (one of the neatest features of the app!), I was led to a gratitude practice.
I sat on the floor of my childhood bedroom as the calming voice asked me to start out by thinking about the simple, obvious things that I’m thankful for—my life, my health, and my family and friends. Those are the things and people I remember each day, the things and people that I know my life is better for because they exist. The meditation moved on to recognizing experiences, opportunities, and freedoms next. I thought about how lucky I am to have the opportunity to get a college education, to have a job, and to have the many resources that I do. Next, the voice posed an interesting question: how much do you depend on the cooperation and support of other people? I immediately thought about how much I pride myself on being independent (even though I seek the advice of my mom, sister, and close friends probably a little too often!). I think of myself as a self-motivated, and all-in-all, self-sufficient individual. That being said, before I could even finish my thought, the little voice that came from my phone continued to push my boundaries of thought: “Think about how your home, your school, the clothes food you eat and the clothes you wear all come from the efforts and hard work of other people. And just take a moment to genuinely appreciate all of the freedoms, opportunities, and support available to you.”
I was immediately met with the humbling, powerful realization that there are so many people who have added to my life that I will never know or have the chance to thank. How many people worked long hours to build the house that I grew up in? Whose efforts are to thank for the cold, clean water that comes out of the faucet when I’m thirsty? Who donated to the libraries where I’ve found the books that have changed my life? I spent a good amount of my day thinking about these people that I don’t know and wanting to thank them for enriching my life in the important, indirect ways that they have. During a time of life in which I feel like I’m constantly trying to assert and maintain my independence, a sign that I’m ready to move on to the next chapter of life, to face the post-grad “real” world, I was so simply reminded of the interconnectedness of all things, and for some reason, that dependance brought me a new sense of peace. Even in my most independent state of being, I am not alone. My life is the way it is because of so many other people—people I know and love and people I will never meet.
Later in the day, I came across a quote by Alice Walker: “’Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.” Chances are that I will never have the chance to look these anonymous, helpful people in the eye and thank them, but I can offer up a prayer of thanks every single day. Maybe this thank you doesn’t need a direct recipient, maybe it just needs to be said out loud, into the space around me. Maybe that’s enough. Thank you, thank you, thank you world.