On: Gratitude… and Death (Part I)

As human beings, we can miss so much.  It is perfectly possible for us to bounce about our days with vast chunks of potential experience simply passing us by, untapped, unused and ultimately wasted.

The fact that we perpetually take things for granted, the fact that we constantly: form and work from internal generalisations, is something that’s deeply rooted in our nature.  It’s a necessary faculty.  And it’s totally useful…

Some of the time.

But here’s the danger:

When left unchecked this mechanism can, all too easily, become our default and habitual way of interacting with the world.  When this happens we begin to wander around aimlessly, steered purely by desire and reaction, becoming ever-more trapped and enmeshed in habitual ruts of thought and behaviour.

But you want some Good News?

It doesn’t have to be this way.  It’s a choice, and it’s ours to make.  Armed with just a few key insights, you can take that: rainy-day-grey unseeing blind ragged flip flop of a life; set in on fire, chock-jam it full of adrenalised colour, and watch it explode into breathtaking ribbons of light.

Want to know what these insights are?

OK.  Well, just because it’s you, I’ll tell.  But let’s keep it quiet.  I mean, we wouldn’t want everyone to know this stuff, right?…

GANDD

If human beings didn’t have the faculty to take things for granted it would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to get anything done at all.  If, for example, we questioned with every step if the floor would bear our weight or drop us without reason into the dark depths of a flaming and fiery abyss, it would take us an absolute age to get from somewhere to anywhere else (if in fact, we were able to set out at all).

Knowing roughly how stuff works, making generalisations about it, and using those generalisations to steer us in the world saves us precious time and frees up cognitive RAM, enabling us to concentrate on other, higher level activities.

But, unless we exercise an intelligent degree of awareness and caution, it is all too easy to: repeatedly slip-slide melt into the comfortable womb of the familiar, hit the autopilot switch and let our lives unfurl on automatic pilot – never truly seeing, inhabiting, or experiencing the ever living moment.

Why is it so easy for this to happen?  Well, in some ways this approach feels good to us.  We like to feel safe, we enjoy certainty, and the security of ‘the familiar’ is an ever present siren song.  Don’t get me wrong here, letting some things in your life drift on autopilot some of the time can be ultra helpful whilst you’re getting other things done.  But when you allow this to become your habitual way of being, when you find yourself unconsciously and repeatedly choosing to become inured to the greater part of your moment-to-moment experience, then you are in a dangerous place indeed.  This is an error that will, with absolute certainty and great appetite, gnaw and devour the very flesh of your life right down to the bone if not curtailed.

It’s not all doom and gloom tho.  As luck would have it, there’s an ultra-shiny flipside to this whole deal.  Ready?

Whilst it is true that: we can miss out on much in our environment and our experience, it is also true that: when you actually begin looking into it, even in a cursory way, almost every single thing in life can be cognitively unpacked, reveal previously hidden depths.  Sometimes, this process will reveal massive veins of untapped wealth hidden, just out of sight, beneath the rolling tundra of day-to-day mundanity.  Even the smallest, most seemingly inconsequential thing can actually contain wonders, of a great and epic magnitude.

What do I mean by that?  Well…

As I write this I have, on my desk beside me, a cup of coffee.  As small, simple and commonplace thing as you will ever find.  But the beans that my coffee was made from were grown, by a bunch of people I have never met on the other side of the world.  Someone labored for over a year to plant, and then daily water, the bush they grew on.  Someone picked the cherries by hand, someone dried them, someone hulled them, someone roasted them, and then someone packaged them for me.  They were flown thru the sky, bought to my door from half a world away in precision metal vehicles that collectively cost millions of dollars.  The water that the beans are brewed in has been filtered by a system (which I did not make), which was built, and is maintained by an army of people whom I will likely never meet.  This clean, instantly drinkable water is boiled at the touch of a button in a contraption that I could not make myself, using a force which, to be honest, may as well be magic to me.

So in one sense, it is correct to say that my morning cup of coffee is one of the simplest and easiest to overlook things in my daily life.  But, when I consider it in this new way, I am made aware of the fact that: in days gone by, the most powerful of the Pharoahs, Kings, Rulers and Khans could not, even with the full measure of their wealth and power, have enjoyed something so exquisite.

And for the most part I just take it for granted.

And here, as the bard would say, is the rub.  When I stop to consider it in this way, unpacking it in order to perceive it with a greater degree of clarity, all at once the taste becomes more vivid.  Suddenly, when I sip the liquid I am more aware of it’s value, I do so more attentively and consequently find every sharp, bitter mouthful much more enjoyable.  What has changed?  It is exactly the same experience as before with exactly the same components.  But because I’ve taken a little time to consider, unpack, and appreciate it, my depth of experience has gone from small screen black and white silent movie, to an explosion of 3D widescreen colour in full-scale epic Dolby surround sound.

You can do this with pretty much anything.  Everywhere you look, there will be something that, if you think about it deeply enough, contains the power to blow the doors of your mind off their hinges with wave after wave of proto-orgasmic gratitude. This way of: learning to truly see and appreciate what is already around you can work some serious bolts of wonder thru the day-to-day fabric of your life.

Sounds pretty good right?  But how can we apply this so it sticks?  How do we make sure we remember?  How do we integrate the idea so that it shows up in our lives on a more consistent basis?

Those are some Good Questions.

There is, in fact, one primary thing you can do right now that will make pretty much everything in your life: taste sweeter, feel better and go way way deeper.  Something that will help you see old tired things in a new, hi-contrast light, and that will integrate the practice of greater appreciation into your experience effortlessly.  Want to know what it is?

OK then, I’ll tell you… in Part 2 of this post.  😉

Until then….

I wish you well.

– J


My name is James Radcliffe and I am a 100% audience supported independent artist.  If you like what I do (and can afford it) then please consider buying some of my music.  Each purchase really makes a big difference to me and 10% of every sale goes to a charity which: houses, feeds, clothes, and educates orphaned children in Nepal.

Also, every month I send out a newsletter packed with Interesting and Exclusive Things.  If you sign up today you’ll also get 3 FREE tracks of my music as a welcome gift.

Get 3 Free Tracks Now.

And lastly, if you’d like to find out what I’m up to on a more day-to-day basis then here is my brain on Twitter:

15 Comments

  1. This is the first time visiting your blog and I truly enjoyed this post.
    I have been living with chronic pain and chronic illness for the past 10 years. I became quite ill the past few especially. Recently, I have come into a very clear awareness of life, people, small, simple things and behaviors that I appreciate now more that I have ever noticed before. Like everyone has lit up like Christmas lights. I agree that gratitude does amazing things for the soul.
    Thank you for sharing this. I hope those reading your message will take more care in how they value the world and the people around them.

    Like

    1. Hey there,
      First, thanks for taking the time to write this, it means a lot to me.
      I am sorry to hear of your pain and long-term illness, but am glad that you enjoyed this post. One of the reasons I wrote it is: I am all too aware that it is very easy to overlook those small gifts life has given us, things when life is good and we are pain-free. Then, when we are in pain, we look back and understand what passed us by. But even then it is still hard to feel grateful, because we are in pain. I feel that the best is: to realise this truth fully, ahead of the time that it becomes truly useful so we can appreciate our lives while we have them, no matter what our circumstance, and prepare for a time when we really need the insight.
      I really feel for you, I wish you well and hope that the day is being kind to you,
      If I can do anything to help, please let me know,
      Thanks again,
      – J

      Like

      1. Thank you for your compassionate words.

        I agree with you. It would be wonderful if we could embrace life’s simplicity and values as they come to us. However, most people first go through some type of hardship before they understand how special the gifts of life are.
        I hope blogs like yours reach those going through such trials so they can find gratitude. I believe gratitude is a first step to finding joy.

        Keep doin’ whatchya doin’! 😉
        All the best,
        ABodyofHope

        Like

        1. Hey there, ABodyofHope,
          First, thanks for taking the time to write this, really brightened my day. 😉
          I agree with your point about hardship. I think the key is to try and get ahead of it, so to speak, and understand the important lessons – before they are forced upon us (as they inevitably are) by circumstance.
          Your comment is beautiful, as are you,
          Hope you have a great weekend,
          – J
          P.S. Happy Spooniversary. X 😉

          Like

  2. Firstly, thank you for visiting my blog. I like yours and your music. About your post, Gratitude and Death, I wanted to say that in my culture (Papua New Guinea), we see and feel things everywhere. It is one of those gifts of having life and multiple senses to enjoy at all levels. Simple things and life’s basic actions are all inter-connected with nature and our actions as human beings can have huge effect on all living things – so we have to be mindful of our actions. There is tremendous ‘living’ in the subtleties of life. It was a very good reminder to appreciate life even more when I read this post.

    Like

    1. Hey there,
      First, really glad you got something from the post, it’s the reason I write them . 😉
      It sounds as if the culture you live in is potentially more attuned to this than the prevalent western culture of which I am a part. If this is true, then you are fortunate indeed! 😉 To be able to be conscious of the inter-connectedness of all things whilst going about daily life is a great boon. 😉
      I am very glad to get your comment, thankyou for taking the time to write it, and to connect.
      I hope you have a beautiful weekend,
      – J

      Like

  3. Hey James, really interesting thoughts on consciousness and intentionality. I’ve discovered through traveling to other cultures that my assumptions of what’s “normal” are constantly shattered, and sometimes I really have to dig deep to identify certain disconnects. But when I go back home, and there’s a certain thing I miss, like my mother’s baked goods, wow. There’s nothing sweeter in the world. So I guess travel has benefited me in this way: it’s become a tool for which I regain my consciousness. Thanks for your thoughts, they made me rethink my own!

    Like

    1. Hey there,
      Thanks in return for such a great comment. 😉 I know what you mean about travel, it is good to have some patterns shattered, and I fully agree about missing pieces of home – all part of the process. 😉
      It’s great that your travel has benefited you so much, I think you get out what you put in, so kudos to you!
      Hope you’re having a great day, be well,
      – J

      Like

  4. Thoughtful post. Reminds me about how when asked what you do after you’re enlightened, the masters relplied, “We cook, we eat, we wash our bowl.” And the response is, “ya, but everyone does that.” And the masters reply, “That is true, but when you’re enlightened, you’re aware that you are doing it.”

    Like

Click Here To Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s