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  • Writer's pictureKaren Schwartz

The Pain and Poignancy of Gratitude

Recently, I had the pleasure and privilege of taking a vacation to New Mexico. The beauty of the geography and the lovely September weather were a perfect combination. As I sat one morning in a quiet, landscaped garden, enjoying the sun gleaming off the trees, the clean, fresh air and the stillness, I was awash in gratitude. Immediately on the heels of that feeling came a painful, poignant sadness, as I realized my time there was limited and I might never see that particular place again. This was accompanied by an urge to tighten my grip and hold on to the moment, the obvious futility of which rendered the moment even more painful .

I slumped momentarily under the weight of a brief inner struggle; suddenly, the yogic concept of santosha, or contentment, popped into my mind, and I straightened up. I realized I could simply be content with the beauty of the moment. Without even trying, contentment shifted me out of the pain of trying to hold on, and into another yogic concept, that of aparigraha, or non-grasping. Being content, I could take in the beauty without the pain.

While the latter was a much more pleasurable experience, both were necessary. Fully appreciating the joys and pleasures of life inevitably requires us to recognize that they are fleeting, changeable, impermanent. This reality can be painful, but that pain also highlights the contrasting pleasure of the moment.

Practicing gratitude – continually recognizing the gifts of each day and each moment – will bring us to the intersecting edges of pleasure and pain. If we can relax and allow ourselves to be content, we can sink into moments of contentment and peace, and truly be present with it all.

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