To begin this gratitude practice, I’d like to start by considering one of the biggest obstacles to gratitude: resentment. We can dress up our resentment with a sophisticated storyline about how others—one, or many, or multitudes—are doing us wrong, but what it simply boils down to is being upset because we’re not getting what we want.
From time to time, we need to undercut our own perspective and see things from the other side—maybe even from all sides.
The world is too complex and multifaceted for us to continually get our way. It’s good to aspire for the best for ourselves and others, while nonetheless remaining committed to the journey more than the satisfaction of achieving a fixed outcome. If everyone gets their way, we can’t have a cooperative world. From time to time, we need to undercut our own perspective and see things from the other side—maybe even from all sides. Gratitude is a practice that can work with the tendency to cling to fixed outcomes and to feel resentful when we don’t get our way.
A Guided Meditation to Counteract Resentment with Gratitude
A 12-Minute Meditation to Counteract Resentment with Gratitude
- Bring to mind something that seems unlikely to change and that you do not accept. Perhaps it’s something that’s happened to you or it’s something that’s going on with a loved one or in the world at large.
- Counter-intuitively say thank you for that. You’re not being thankful for the thing itself, you’re being thankful for the opportunity to let go. To accept how things unfold doesn’t mean we condone bad behavior or indulge in pessimism or martyrdom. The point is to use gratitude to undercut our resistance to working creatively with difficult situations.
- For about 3 minutes, keep imagining things you resent, that you’re irritated about, things that you have trouble accepting or allowing.Try having an attitude that says, “Thank you for the opportunity to work with this.” Deep gratitude for the opportunity to let go of our grasping to outcomes can foster a kind of embryonic openness that can lead to other more outward kinds of gratitude.
- In this next step, let’s be grateful in concentric circles, moving out from our immediate situation, with prompts like the following: I’m grateful to have the necessities of life. I’m grateful to have people to love and to share love with. I’m grateful for friends and the companionship they offer. I’m grateful for the people who serve my needs, who pick up the garbage, take care of the roads, or fix my bicycle. I’m grateful for the people who provide energy and take care of the vast infrastructure that supports society and life. Thank you to the people who sell me food. I’m grateful to health care workers. I’m grateful to the people who are dedicated to keeping me safe. Finally, I’m grateful for the need to encounter those who mean harm, who are tormented by mental and physical pain that causes them to act badly or even violently. While I do not condone purposefully harmful actions, I am grateful that there is a spark of compassion available for those who do harm, and for all of us when we do harm, and the possibility of beneficial change emerging in time.