It’s very interesting when I hear people say the following:
“I’ll be happy when I get married, have kids and buy a new home when I’m thirty.”
“I want happiness!”
“I’ll wait until Thanksgiving to be grateful.”
My question is…why wait?
Why find a reason to worry?
Recently, my mother got into a car accident. As she was breaking to go with the same traffic flow as everyone else, two 16 year-old girls behind her, distracted in conversation, did not break in time and as a result, destructed both the back of my mother’s car and the front of their car. Our car became unusable. My mother was physically well but mentally traumatized, not just because she was almost killed and lost a car but because of the potential trouble awaiting for the two girls. Who knows how burdensome the expenses were for the damage? (Sorry, insurance companies.)
When I discovered the news, I felt an expression so twisted I couldn’t think: a mix of anger, frustration, devastation, shock, fear and so much more. It was as if karma (I’m Buddhist) despised me and was bullying me this way. The accident was the only thing on my mind. I displayed an extremely distraught attitude for a very long time.
However, my sister and I discovered that our favorite healthy vegan YouTubers and Instagrammers Essena O’Neill, Cornelia Grimsmo and so many more vegan gurus were holding a meetup in Santa Monica that same day from 2-6 P.M.! My mother voluntarily drove my sister and me to the Palisades Park and we met everyone: my favorite vegan gurus Cornelia Grimsmo and Essena O’Neill as well as fellow fans who connected with us so much! Even though we could only stay for an hour, the meetup ended up being one of the best experiences of my life.
On the way home, it hit me. I discovered all of the possible outcomes that didn’t occur. My mother was still alive. We still had two cars. We could afford to get another one. Many families do not have the same privilege; sometimes people lose their only cars to an accident and cannot afford to purchase another one—sadly, some people lose their lives. I mentally chastised myself for being such a brat—how could I make such a big deal out of the small changes that would eventually be restored once the car was replaced? What was truly the root of my unhappiness was my family’s overall unhappiness.
You can be in any situation and still be able to feel so much happiness and appreciation that your heart will explode. Our Western societies have shaped us into such egoists, or individualists. We always want something new, something in return, something that will impact us. The big question is “How can I benefit myself?” However, if you look at Eastern societies, there is less infrastructure, less technology, less consumption, less resources and less advancement, but more community, piety, and satisfaction. Their question is “How can I benefit everyone?”
The loss of one car led me to not only a huge group of open and relatable people I never knew, but to the sharing of my family’s grief. I found a new revelation that I needed for the longest time. To have more you need to let go. You need to experience painful things to gain trust and companionship.
Whenever I feel frustrated, I now turn to my Buddhist roots, which emphasizes the need to break away from all causes of suffering, the main one being attachment. Think about it. We’re so obsessed with our phones, clothing, cars, money, gossip, trends, business, etc. that we become distressed when they are not present. Admit it: 99% of the time when you were asked the “What would you bring to a deserted island” question, you answered your iPhone. I’m not suggesting you to move to a remote sanctuary with no Wi-Fi and no society; all you really need is a few minutes. No social media, no TV, no company. Here are a few ways you can start discovering how much gratitude you already have inside of you and how much you’re capable of feeling!
Write down what you have, why you love life, and what you’re thankful for. It can be as profound as your anxiety disorder or as simple as Trader Joe’s cookies. If you can’t write, step outside for some air, close your eyes or lie down and list them in your head. The list doesn’t even have to be very long—just whatever is on your mind. Walk. Your mind can get mentally drained if you seldom move your body. Bonus points if it’s outside in fresh air! Meditate. Cook something nice and store it in the fridge for later. Take a nap. Stretch. Detach.
I’ll admit, it was very hard at first. I remember suffering from a splitting headache and refusing to take a nap because I wanted to get work done. I’d feel bad for not doing anything productive. But detaching from something is actually one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself. You don’t gain anything, but you lose a lot of what you’re suffering from, and that causes you to be thankful of what you’ve been missing all along: the food on the table, the gas in your car, the house that shields you from harm, the people surrounding you—but most of all, the heart and blood pumpkin inside of you keeping you alive. That is all that matters.
How do you express gratitude? What are you most grateful for?