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THE TAO Mindful Living through Gratitude

By November 1, 2012January 14th, 2021Blogs, Dr. Jenny Yip

Life is both precious and painful at the same time. We rarely appreciate the beauty of our existence until we are faced with misfortune. Many of us take the simplest pleasures of life for granted until we must live without such luxuries. Whether it is your health, a loved one, or even something as mundane as having electricity, the ironic truth is that we do not truly know what we have until we lose it.

Though suffering is painful, it does not have to be a meaninglessly wasted casualty. You can either be better or bitter. The choice is yours. Suffering can lead to gratitude if you surrender to it. So, how do you surrender to pain and suffering? Through mindful living.

When everyone recognizes beauty as beautiful, there is already ugliness;
When everyone recognizes goodness as good, there is already evil.
–Lao Tzu

The origins of “mindfulness” have its roots in Eastern thought. The Chinese term it “Taoism”. The Japanese term it “Zen”. Some have associated it with the practice of yoga, and others have associated it with the religion of Buddhism. However, Tao in its purest sense is not religion or philosophy; nor is it psychology or a type of science. Simply put, Tao is a way and view of life. Mindfulness is part of that way of life to reduce suffering.

All things in the world come from being. And being comes from non-being. –Lao Tzu
This is the essence of what we have come to know today as mindfulness. Learning to let go and be without thought, without judgment, without mind. So, the word “mindfulness” actually contradicts, in its literal sense, the essence of The Way. However, the English word “mindlessness” isn’t any better.

How do you use mindfulness to let go of suffering and reach gratitude? By being in the present moment. For many of us, this is easier said than done. Instead, we spend too much time ruminating over our painful past or worrying about the possibility of future suffering. We cannot change the past and have no guarantees for the future. So why live in it? Mindful living in the “now” allows us to be present and experience the passing of time. Whatever emotion or thought you are experiencing, whether positive or negative, over time, has to pass. The moment you read these words has just passed. Try to hold onto it… You cannot. This is what is meant by “This too shall pass.” Every moment is moving toward the next moment. Being present in THIS moment as it occurs leads to mindfulness.

Remember the phrase, “time heals”? It’s actually true. The passage of time leads to the fading of our emotional experiences. If you are feeling miserable with painful thoughts, this will pass. Similarly, if you are feeling joy with happy thoughts, this too will pass. Whatever it is, it has to pass. Just stay with the present moment and observe your emotions non-judgmentally, as opposed to getting caught up in one negative thought after another. Rather than giving more meaning to the negative thought than what it’s worth or appraising the emotion with more value than what it’s worth, focus on the now to let time pass and the healing begin. No one thing can ever be static. Everything evolves and passes. And time cannot be recycled.

How do you attain mindfulness? There is no definitive “achievement” of mindfulness, especially when the essence of it is to empty your mind. Mindfulness is just a state of being without adding unnecessary judgments of good or bad value. However, since this can be rather challenging, it is important to recognize and be mindful that one cannot exist without the other. With good, comes bad. Similarly, without pain, one will not comprehend what is pleasure. To reach gratitude is to appreciate this fundamental understanding. This is the Tao of mindful living.

With this awareness, I choose to be better by seeing the beauty from the pain. I refuse to allow my suffering be a wasted casualty. I am grateful for all things grand and trivial. Most importantly, I am grateful for the pain I have experienced, so that I may truly appreciate the magnificence of life. What are you grateful for in this present moment?

For specific mindfulness training strategies, check out