America has just finished celebrating Thanksgiving Day, with family gatherings and roast turkeys. We don’t celebrate in that way here, but the concept of remembering with gratitude for what we have been given, for friends, family, and the life we have, is wonderful. In yoga, we believe that the breath you have, the breath of life, is something to be thankful for. That really captures it at the most fundamental, yet profound, level.
I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. We were a below-middle income family. We had good days and bad days – we have experienced the ups and the downs. But in many ways, I count it lucky to be born in Malaysia, to have an education, food on the table, and a safe space to live. To me, it is about the lens in which you view your life.
“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” – Helen Keller
It is easy to focus on what we don’t have, and be unhappy about all the things we can’t have. And we equate happiness with material things and wealth. When we see our friends earning more money, or buying a bigger house, we become dissatisfied with what we have, and we want what they have. Then it becomes about chasing the next ‘bigger’ thing, and it never ends. All you end up with is stress and frustration.
So how can we be truly happy? Well, the secret to happiness is not really a secret. It is about being thankful, practicing daily gratitude and being content – and when you are calm and satisfied, you will experience growth. And growth is a key component to success.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.” – Melody Beattie
The other key to happiness is giving. When we earn more, it is normal to want to spend more. When we have extra money, we suddenly think of all the things we can now afford to buy. Maybe it’s a branded handbag, or the latest gadget.
But when our earnings increase, we should increase our giving, not our spending.
To me, this is very powerful. Besides feeling blessed and thankful for all that I have, it is also about sharing it with others. Imagine what a difference we could make.
However, it is not just about making big donations to charity, or giving up 80% of your income to serve the poor. It’s about the small acts of kindness that we offer those around us – such as smiling and asking someone about their day, helping an elderly with their groceries, or thanking the cleaner for their hard work.
Small acts of kindness are very powerful.
They go a long way. To the recipient, it can be a highlight of their day; it could be life-changing even. But we don’t do enough of it. We don’t need a specific time, or a reason, to do it. If we do need a reason, it should only be because we are thankful.
“We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count.” – Neal A. Maxwell
Why not begin with a small act of kindness today? It doesn’t have to cost much. It can be as simple as a smile. You could buy a drink for the roadside sweeper, or a delicious lunch for the security guard at your apartment complex. Or get something nice for someone who serves you directly or indirectly.
It doesn’t matter what you give, what matters is that you give. What is important is that we all start somewhere. Start small! Once you’ve experienced giving, it can get you hooked. There is a sense of fulfilment and joy that comes with it.
Thankfulness should not just be celebrated on one special day or season. It should be a way of life.