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What I Learned About Gratitude From Two Weeks In Bali

What I Learned About Gratitude From Two Weeks in Bali

Bali has been on my bucket list for as long as I have had a bucket list. I envisioned white sand beaches, turquoise waters and fresh juice. What I did not imagine was a soul-changing lesson on gratitude. First off, if you have never been, OMG do I recommend Bali! The people are as beautiful as the scenery and the food is absolutely divine.

Most of Bali is Hindu and part of Hinduism is the daily ritual of gratitude. Each and every day each member of the family gathers together to pay homage to all of the things they are grateful for. For those that are employed, they repeat this tradition at work. With each of these thanks, they leave an offering. The offerings vary but mostly are small containers made of bamboo filled with flowers, small bits of food and incense. You see these strewn all over the streets, on stairs, in front of churches, schools and homes- all over- visual reminders of all of the wonderment of their culture and community.

Watching these ceremonies every single day for two weeks gave me lots to reflect on as to my own practice of gratitude. Here's what I discovered:

1) Gratitude can be for the big stuff, but for the small stuff too. The Balinese people do not just say thank you for their homes and families, but for things that easily go unnoticed. They pay homage to their ancestors, their Gods and their homes, but they also say thank you in each and every room- thank you to the kitchen for food, for bedrooms for comfort, to their land for its history and to their family altars for the deceased. They say thank you to the animals that died to feed them. I even watched one woman say thank you to her broom for helping keep her house tidy, but also to the ants that might have died in the sweeping. They say thank you to the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the ocean, the mountains, the air, and the wind. They do this every single day.

2) Gratitude is more than just a saying. The Balinese do not just verbally say their thanks, but they make an offering as well. They do not expect to receive without giving themselves. Blessings are reciprocal.

3) Gratitude WILL change your life: I watched these Balinese natives with complete wonderment and pondered how it would feel to start each day being thankful rather than disgruntled, how the day might unfold differently, how my mood might change and my perspective within it. I worked in the service industry for 18 years. Gathering together pre-shift to complain about how long the night seemed before it even started, anticipating annoying customers, finding things that were wrong was almost a nightly ritual. I think back to those nights and wonder what it would have been like if we started those shifts together in thankfulness for our jobs, for customers and for each other- what it would have been like to lead with abundance, compassion and gratitude for the opportunity rather than lead with negativity.

So now what: I have been back for a while. I can't go back and change what I didn't know and rewrite those nights at the bar or all the times I took things for granted. But I can bring intention and mindfulness to my life now. While I do not have the same discipline as the Balinese, or the same spirituality, I have managed to make a more conscious effort to notice the less noticeable and lead from a heart full of thanks rather than angst; and I implore you to do the same.

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