There are many methodologies to achieve “enlightenment.” This is not a state that one attains; it is our natural state that we’ve set aside or forgotten. Don Miguel Ruiz uses The Four Agreements as a means to maintain the state of being. A Course in Miracles takes you through 365 days of deliberate mind shift with its workbook and accompanying text. Eckhart Tolle says the key is in “the power of Now.” The common thread between all of these paths to being present is controlling thought: how we use it or how it uses us, keeping us in the muck and mire of struggle, pain and resistance.
The aforementioned ways to live a more peaceful life by returning our attention to our inner truth comprise a small list from many pathways. I find these and many others to be a wonderful groundwork of ideology interlaced with specific actions. For me, the tool most readily available and easy to make a default mode is gratitude.
To quote Meister Eckhart, “If the only prayer you ever say your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” When we are genuinely grateful for everything, we are not wishing for the present moment to be different than it is. We do not look to the past in longing for its circumstances to return. There is no wanting for an experience to be like one of the past. Simultaneously, hope of the future making a difference is not considered. That leaves appreciation for now.
Our minds pollute the present moment by assessing and assigning judgmental labels of “good” or “bad.” Gratitude helps us leave those labels behind. Should something be occurring that one might prefer to be different, being grateful allows us to use the moment to transcend judgments that keep us from Presence, the connecting force of Oneness.
An example of gratitude maintaining connection to the present moment in my life occurred during a production at a local theater. The person seated next to me was extremely restless and continuously shifted in her chair. I was distracted by her movements and felt myself becoming annoyed. In the awareness of my choosing to be annoyed, I took a breath with gratitude. “Thank you for this opportunity for forgiveness,” I muttered to myself. I forgave my fellow attendee for fidgeting and myself for seeing her as an annoyance. I chose to feel Oneness instead. At the end of the performance as I was enthusiastically applauding, I realized I had no longer been distracted by my neighbor. Had she stopped shifting in her chair? Or, had I no longer noticed by “shifting” my perception?
Gratitude leads us to acceptance of what is. Through that acceptance, peace is found. Connecting with the present moment assures living in peace and joy — even when we might prefer something different.