As I Breathe, I Learn. 4 Tips for Creating An Attitude of Gratitude


“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

The Little Prince

Life is for learning. How often have you heard this or a similar sentiment, doing your best to suss out what that means, or filing it away entirely?

It can be hard to see sometimes but every day, we’re graced with at least one major opportunity to learn about ourselves. These lessons don’t have to be hard-earned, or even hard, but often they can feel that way. We can of course learn from what’s comfortable and uncomfortable in our experiences.

I’m firmly convinced that everything and everyone in our experience teaches us something.

Noted author Kahlil Gibran brought to mind the idea that we can always discover and explore lessons in kindness from those who seem unkind…as he digs even deeper into the idea, he chides us for complaining about others who are unkind, calling such expressions ungrateful. In a sense, he could be right.


As I reconnect with the idea however, I realize that complaint is an expression of a desire for things to be better, an elevated “ouch!” and ultimately the soul’s request for healing and insight. So-called “ungrateful” expressions are gratitudes not yet discovered or explored, expressed or claimed.

Yes, mean people (more kindly seen, hurt people who are acting out with actions that could be viewed as mean) can in fact always teach us to be “a little kinder.” Reflecting kindness back to disharmonious people or in uncomfortable situations is a decision, a habit, a practice.

Here are four tips to keep handy when you want to claim, reclaim, or experience an “attitude of gratitude:”

  1. Accept What Is, Right Now:  Making yourself or others wrong helps no one’s progress, and yet sometimes it’s the best we know. Once you accept what is and make peace with it, you can operate and make decisions with a clearer head. It also makes letting go of the past, forgetting mistakes, and dropping any perceived hurt sense that much easier.
  2. Focus on Learning Instead of Reacting: Be curious, stay in wonder (I got this “wonder-full” learning tip from  Gay and Katie Hendricks). When you are in reaction mode, it can rob you of the opportunity to make more conscious and loving decisions. Responding in a “like with like” manner (i.e. “You’re mean, so I’ll be mean”) destroys any chance of helping either party feel better. Ultimately, water puts out fires. Be like water. Here’s a great example, courtesy of Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks: ask, “I wonder what that means?” Being in a state of wonder can be internal. It’s something you can even just think to yourself. If the other party is somewhat interactive and willing to engage with you, you could even proactively ask, “Hm, I’m curious…what did you mean by that?” and stay present for their response with no attachment to what the outcome “should” be like.
  3. Make It “A New Day:” Let’s say you react with bitter tears, you mouth off like a hothead, or you otherwise seem to disappoint yourself in any given situation. Now, what? So what? Shrug it all off and make it a new day, right now. Whether that mental change happens in the early morning, late afternoon or middle of the night, just begin again. We can always begin anew. That’s why we call spiritual practices practices.
  4. Just Be Kind: Above all, just be kind. We are all doing the best we can. Just because someone else’s version of “doing their best” isn’t at all apparent to you, it doesn’t change this universal truth. Apply this rule to yourself first and foremost. Don’t worry, it’s not selfish—it will automatically reflect outward in your interactions with others. That’s just how life works.



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