Typically, we take the common blessings of life—health, shelter, food, and friendship—for granted. Ironically, gratefulness arrives only after these are impaired or taken away from us

December 2015 Mark Ford

“The Preciousness of Big Things

After you’ve taken time to think about some of the many little things that make your life so happy, you’ll be able to move on to the big things in a meaningful and authentic way. Think about these big ideas for a long time. Consider even writing a few pages about them every week.

Your health: You have aches. You have pains. You may have illness and infirmity. But you also have time every day to enjoy yourself and the company of the people you love and are loved by. Be thankful for that.

Your wealth: You haven’t hit the Forbes list of wealthiest humans, but you have enough money to put clothes on your back, a roof over your head, and food in your stomach.

Your wisdom: You understand the most important things. You realize that of the gifts of life, life itself—particularly a life without pain—is the most precious.

Next to that is the love you share with friends and family members whose company you cherish.

And next to that is the potential of your imagination—your innate and inalienable ability to do what you want with your mind, which is, after all, where your life is located.

Your work—the intellectual and emotional challenges that make your day exciting.

The Homework Assignment That Will Change Your Life

Today, I’d like you to do three things. And then I want you to set yourself a reminder for every day, until the end of the year, to repeat these:

Spend 15 minutes by yourself. Take a walk. Find a peaceful place—a place that is your own version of beautiful. Breathe slowly. Look around. Recognize that one day—sooner than you can believe—you will not exist anymore.

You will not be around to breathe the clean air, to have the sun on your skin, and to see the things you find beautiful. You will not be around to hear the sound of your lover’s sigh, your children’s voices, and your best friend’s laughter. Dwell on the fact that after you’re gone — after your ego is extinguished — all those things will still exist, just as they exist now for you but not for the dead.

Try to get, as clearly as you can, a sense of your own mortality. Try to stop, if only for a few moments, the most fundamental aspect of consciousness—the denial of death.

Think about all the things you should be thankful for.

These are things you might have forgotten. But accepting your mortality should bring them back into focus. If you are healthy, your health will probably be high on your list. If you have friends and family members you care about, they will be up there, too. If you have had material success, you may put that on your list — but certainly beneath health, family, and friendship.

Make a resolution that, from now on, you will spend a moment every day contemplating your mortality and then waking up to your life and all the blessings you can enjoy while you are living.

“Gratitude,” said Cicero, “is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

Think about it…

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