It’s quite common, during this ‘entitled’ era, when it’s common practice in our culture to strive for more, to compare oneself with others, to feel generally dissatisfied and lacking. I feel particularly, for teenagers (I have four teenaged granddaughters) who are bombarded by photos of physical perfection (probably Photoshopped), luxurious belongings, wonderful activities where everyone else appears to be having a glamorous and fun-filled life - all high and impossible standards to which they feel under pressure to aspire. Leading to increased happiness? I think not. Fortunately my granddaughters are growing beyond the chimera and have grounding parents who instil and encourage other activities, other more wholesome virtues.
Life, for a teenager, has always been challenging, what with hormones, exam pressure, changing roles and relationships and living conditions beckoning, but ‘in my day’ it was probably simpler. The just post-war generation, we lived through rationing, ate what we were given, had hand-me-down clothes or made our own and were instilled with more of a sense of being grateful for what we did have - being scolded if we didn’t.
But do we always remember to be grateful for what we do have? Probably not. There’s so much that we take for granted. And yet, it’s now being recognised, gratitude is good for our mental and physical health, as well as being a realistic and wholesome practice to adopt. So what might we be overlooking? Perhaps the simple, everyday, that we, in 2016, hardly even think about.
Take breakfast (if you do). Our ancestors and people in other parts of the world, even our own, would be amazed at the abundance. Go to any supermarket and look at the long aisle of breakfast cereals. Muesli and granola were barely heard of 50 years ago, let alone all the current varieties and other options. Then there are the different sorts of dairy and non-dairy milks, yoghurts, types of fruit from around the world, breads, spreads…… All grown, farmed, produced, packaged, transported, available for our consumption with minimal effort from us. It’s said that up to 170 people have been involved in our breakfast. Sure, we earned the money to pay for it and we went to the shop to buy it but our personal input is dwarfed by the input of so many others. And that’s before we look at the provenance of the bowl, the cutlery, the table, the building we are in. We are living on a beautiful planet, with mineral resources, fertile soil, sufficient rain and sunshine, and here is that simple bowl of cereal. Seeds - how wonderful are they? So much potential contained in such a tiny space. And look at the diversity - how did that come about? In my bowl are oats and blueberries and strawberries. Sitting at my breakfast table I can see, through the window, flag irises in the pond, yellow and orange poppies, full blown peonies, cornflowers, delicate ‘London Pride’, rowan and red and green acers, tall trees beyond my fence in the country park - all of which, like the contents of my bowl, started life as tiny seeds. Miraculous!
We live on the basis of ‘much suffering, much hard work, much joy’ and many, many miracles. Namo Amida Bu, Namo Amida Bu, thank you, thank you.