Be-Aware Living, Beware Living, Happiness, and Gratitude
Majid Ali, M.D.
“Be-Aware-Living” is my term for a life lived in a way of one’s own choosing. I introduced the term“Beware-Living” for a life lived with a script established by others. Be-Aware-Living is breathing one’s own air, observing one’s surrounding by one’s own senses, and heeding one’s own inner voices—in harmony and equilibrium with one’s own core.
What Is Happiness?
Happiness is an illusion. That is one reason why no two people ever agree on what constitutes happiness. No matter how one chooses to define happiness, it is an empty notion—now you have it, now you don’t. Few things make people more unhappy than the search for happiness. Struggle for happiness is essentially Beware Living. The mind craves more of what is put into it.
What Is Gratitude?
The best reason for practicing gratitude that I know is that it makes getting out of the bed in the morning less demanding. For others, it makes the morning hours a profoundly spiritual time. Practice of gratitude is Be-Aware-Living. The mind craves more of what is put into it.
Practice of gratitude does not require elaborate rituals or travel to exotic places. It can be practiced anywhere, at any time. It requires neither outside support nor special inner capacity. I have seen patients live with profound gratitude even as they suffer a progressive paralysis of body muscles caused by multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. I know many young people who are incarcerated at home with disabling chronic fatigue, yet they are grateful for simply being alive. I also know chronically ill and angry patients for whom the word gratitude is a cruel joke. They rage, without quite understanding why they are consumed by overwhelming resentment. For the former group, gratitude is a river that flows endlessly, neither revealing its true origin nor its destiny. For the latter, gratitude is an impenetrable wall.
How does one practice gratitude? By first being clear-eyed about the difference between Be-Aware-Living and Beware-Living. How does one learn to know, trust and surrender to the larger presence that surrounds and permeates each of us at all times—the divinity within each human being? There are, of course, no simple prescriptions. First and foremost, one must learn to live with the essential insecurity of life. What is freedom? To the extent that human beings can be free, it is the freedom from the need to be free that sets us free. To the extent that we can feel secure, it is the recognition that there can be no complete security in life. Thus, freedom and security are the gifts we receive when we learn to trust that larger presence.
How does one become aware of that presence? Natural beauty requires no endorsement from mere mortals. Yet when we see a sun lowering behind crimson clouds, we speak of the magnificence of that scene. Then we try to do justice to that scene. But does that magnificence really need our endorsement? Does the presence in that magnificence really need us to do justice to it? We look at the snow-capped peaks of a tall mountain and excitedly talk about its stunning grandeur. We strive to do justice to it. But does the presence in that mountain really need our justice? We witness the innocent beauty of a wildflower, marvel at it, then seek words to do justice to it. Does the presence in that wildflower require any justification from us to be? How did we get so messed up? How did we get so infatuated with ourselves? And with the notion that sunsets, mountains and wildflowers need our approval for their existence?
How does one become aware of that presence? I return to the question. We cannot do so by doing justice to that presence. Rather, we need to let that presence do justice to us, approve and endorse our existence. It takes a certain innocence free from the cortical clutter to know that presence in that sunset, that mountain peak and that windflower. That is the simple way.
The energy of that presence surrounds and permeates us, just as geomagnetic fields do. We can discern the magnetic fields only when we open ourselves to them with appropriate sensors. It is a crude analogy, but to be aware of that presence we also need to open ourselves. Then we don’t need stunning sunsets or lofty mountain peaks to become aware of that presence. We can do so just as well by looking at dust particles shining in the shaft of light entering a room through a window, or through the dim flame of a candle reflected in a rusty door knob. That awareness is the gratitude that sets us free. So it follows that we can receive all the freedom and security we need through the light reflected from a door knob—or, when walking on a sidewalk, by the light absorbed in a shriveled dry leaf that the wind might blow toward us.
Gratitude may be practiced anywhere, anytime, through any trivial object—for there is divinity in all trivia just as there is divinity is each of us. We can know only as much divinity as exists within us in Be-Aware Living.
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