Alchemists, Allies, Everywhere Past and Present
The Gratitude Warriors I’ve known have been the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. Their beauty, however, is a beauty that’s been earned, a beauty that’s fierce and often times rugged and seemingly dangerous, like the elements of Nature herself. It’s as if their lives have developed over emotional eons and parts of themselves that once existed were hammered by life’s pains and harsh rain, its wind fire and storms, its asteroid collisions and monumental earthquakes, and what’s left, what remains, is the person in front of me who is tempered like the Moon is tempered, like the sky is tempered, like mountains are tempered.
Thanks to the Gratitude Warriors, the people that go invisible amongst us, who I’ve taken so many years for granted while enjoying relationships, enjoying traveling, enjoying the warmth of family, enjoying cooking, enjoying philosophizing, enjoying eating, enjoying warm places to rest and wake up and enjoying even all the creative gifts I’ve unwrapped almost every day of my life. The people in my life and that I’ve known who each pursued the practice of finding gratitude in their lives, and even without consciously saying it, shared the fruits of their gratitude with me, expanding my appreciation of life beyond what it was before.
There is a strength in them that’s accessible if I’m capable of appreciating it, of understanding it, of reaching out for it and dedicating myself to an inward journey that’s reminiscent of the outward one. They are the ones who have reminded me of showing gratitude as a way of life, rather than just a fleeting sentiment.
They are the ones who show me that Life every day can be a situation begun with expectation, where all the events in succession offer me chance after chance to see what Life didn’t give to me, or Life today can be looked at like a prize, a gift, a bounty of experiences that each and every one exceed my wildest imagination.
Gratitude warriors are fierce with their own memories of thankfulness, their own histories of inheritance from others the talents and discoveries which they got from someone else’s lineage of triumph. It passes down, like a mountain passes down into me when I choose to hike it, like the moonlight passes down to me when I choose to look at her in awe and wonder and amazement.
Gratitude Warriors in my life appear as those who pursue beauty, love, and truth, yet at the same time have reminded me to ask myself what I personally am thankful for. I experience their gratitude in precious moments, when they are loving their dogs and cats, when they are repairing their guitar, when they are repairing a broken fixture in their house, when they are sharing a letter they got from a long lost friend.
But beyond what I can outwardly see, their gratitude shows itself by how they uplift me when I am troubled. Most often the hallmark quality is a sense of humor, a light heartedness, an inner joy that, even in the face of troubling experience, a breakup, a family feud, a run in with a disgruntled neighbor, they return a smile or a forgiving air when they could have easily claimed a righteousness or better-than, expectant attitude.
“That opinion is just one out of four billion.” “Well now it looks like I get to learn how to change a tire!” “That person may just be having a really bad day, we never know.” “Their words might be masking that they’re really hurting.” “Hopefully they can use it more than I can!” “I was going to ask for it back, but my house is actually a lot cleaner now!” These are just some remarks warriors of gratitude have said in earshot when otherwise they could have rightfully or otherwise scorned, judged, or let diminish their own light, from they themselves being criticized or dealt a hurtful blow or setback.
This way of being affects me. It shocks me. It confronts what I believe “should be” the way something “ought to be,” and helps transform it into something more malleable, more workable, more creative. As an artist, this quality is paramount to sustain the fire of creativity, this thankfulness for the moment that I’m experiencing. When endeavoring to make a painting or other creative work, feeling resentment is the biggest toxin to the creative process itself. Without these particular people, whom I now see as warriors because so many things must be fought in order to initially see gratitude, I wouldn’t have the first clue about how to cure artist and writers block.
Warriors because expressing gratitude requires courage, strength, and patience, especially when my human mind falls prey to my mortal body, when I’m so tired and exhausted and ready to believe that a doldrum of grey existence is the only thing possible. Gratitude Warriors are everywhere, people who smile at the grocery store, people who talk happily about the plants they’re looking forward to caring for this season. People who love to hear that someone is working on creating something new.
Waking up and imagining gratitude is free. And the moment I do it, my world opens up with possibilities, and the very people who might appreciate the painting I’m doing appear in my mind’s eye. Gratitude pulls back the curtains and illuminates exactly what I’m here for, all before I even open my eyes.
Gratitude Warriors have shown me examples of journalling to express their thanks at the things in life that bring them joy. Examples of painting as a porthole to bringing forth into the waking world the sensations of appreciation for the beauty and love that can exist in our daily life. Their sense of humor, their ease of dress, their lightheartedness and forgiving way in telling anecdotes of their own past, letting villains from childhood and even recent struggles have breathing room inside a story, so that everyone in their own mind can breathe the same air I do.
People who’s eyes get excited and bright when they see animals playing freely. People who talk excitedly about trips they will embark upon. People who listen to my gripes and follow through with the painful question of “did you learn anything from that?” at the end. Those who teach me something when I felt that I already knew enough. But most poignantly, people who courageously show gratitude for its own sake alone, without needing to express it for a purpose. Showing gratitude because thankfulness doesn’t need a recipient, it’s a force of grace that stands upon its own two feet.
Writers’ and Artists’ block vanishes in the face of gratitude. Dilemmas about what to say in a conversation disappear when I ask myself what I’m thankful to this person for. Frustrations about my childhood or ways that my mom and dad could have been different or better, completely vanish when I consciously decide to look for what I’ve been given. Sometimes what I’ve been given is ethereal, it’s a feeling of clarity and joy about what today will bring, and sometimes, it is as permanent as a statue, a monumental shift in perspective or a change in my body, a strength, or a wisdom, and sometimes both, that shows by the new work I am capable of and the ways I can help others or even just make them smile, that I have changed.
The moon and the cloudy skies, along with mountain ranges remind me of the Gratitude Warriors in my life. The moon for her haunting beauty and how she always symbolizes to me a pursuit of something that we may never attain, but she is seen by everyone, she brings us all together with a singular purpose of aspiration. The clouds because they symbolize to me the stirring of the mind, the mixing and processing of thoughts and feelings, sometimes calm, sometimes stormy, but always moving the water of life around to whomever needs it. And the mountains symbolize a journey that we can either see and marvel at from a distance, like listening to a story or reading a great book or marveling at a work of art, or by climbing it ourselves, and letting that journey shape us like the very elements that shaped itself.