Gratitude for Suffering
As our clocks fall back and the calendar flips to November, I am reminded that this is a season of gratitude. While we shouldn’t need a holiday to remind us of everything that we have, gratitude is a practice that brings us closer to the beauty in our world.
In many ways, it is easy to be grateful for the wonderful, bright, and happy instances in our lives. Over the past few years, I have been working on using my gratitude practice as a way to reframe suffering and be grateful for the challenges in my life.
Finding gratitude for our suffering can be hard. When faced with a dark spot on our path, we are also faced with a choice in how we react. Our suffering can be a reminder and an impetus for brightening up.
I am inspired by this quote from Joan D. Chittister:
Darkness deserves gratitude.
It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand
that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.
So how do we begin, then, to shift how we see our own darkness? How do we move the weight of pain into lightness?
The first step is to notice. As my teacher Ana Forrest says, we need to snuggle up with our fears and pain in order to learn from them. This process of noticing often reveals aspects of our spirit that need healing.
Mary Oliver wrote about this learning:
Someone I loved once gave me a box of darkness.
It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.
With practice, we begin to see our patterns in suffering and shift our attitude. We catch ourselves going down the dark rabbit hole of despair. As we gain prajna, or deep insight, from this reframing of our suffering, we have better access to our tools: breath, coming to our mat, meditation, and community. We slowly begin to greet suffering on our path as an old friend offering wisdom. This is the place where gratitude is born.