The Gift of Gratitude
What is gratitude?
For some of us perhaps (including me) it has somewhat negative connotations of being urged by your mum to eat up a dinner that you didn’t like, with the admonishment to “think of the poor starving children in Africa”. So you eat it because you feel guilty that you have food, and others don’t. But the misunderstanding is this: gratitude is NOT allied to guilt!
Would it surprise you to know that gratitude is profoundly linked to the pure joy of Life itself, and that the cultivation of gratitude can be an advanced spiritual practice? Experiencing gratitude is good for your well-being, too, because when you truly feel grateful, it is simply impossible to feel needy, or envious. Your whole outlook is relaxed as you let go of trying so hard to have something else, or be something else, or be somewhere else, or be like someone else. There is simply no desire to add anything into this perfect moment. Consequently, others feel relaxed, happy and comfortable around you -they feel your joy, and share in it.
Yet gratitude is not an entirely natural characteristic. One of the blocks to gratitude is a certain egoic arrogance that, somehow, we deserve “more”, and this is linked to an inability to feel happy for the success of others. But constantly comparing ourselves to others is exhausting, and only leads to unhappiness. In survival terms, there is no point to being grateful. We are programmed to not be satisfied with what we have or who we are. So we have to always acquire more. We can’t allow ourselves to be grateful for that recent promotion, because we are already coveting the boss’s job. It is not possible to be grateful when we are always thinking of “the next step.”
And that brings us to a very important point: you can only experience gratitude in the present moment. certainly not in the future, and you can only remember feeling grateful for something that occurred in the past. So the art of gratitude requires an element of mindfulness, in order to fully experience the present moment.
Establishing gratefulness often starts in the mind, and then moves down into the heart. Thus it begins with the intention, and then we establish a habit to train the mind. So every morning and evening, allocate 5 or 10 minutes to consider what you are grateful for, and write it down. As you reflect on what you are grateful for, be aware of how this makes you feel.
If you have a meditation practice, make it part of your meditations, and again, as you meditate on an aspect of the day for which you are truly grateful, notice how it makes you feel, and notice the energetic signature of gratitude. You may notice a softening and opening of the heart, and a release of energetic blockages, and feel the life-force flowing through you. Become familiar with this, so it becomes a part of you, and part of your energetic signature.
With regular daily practice, the quality of gratitude deepens, strengthens and fills our whole being.We experience inner peace. and we start to understand that gratitude IS that connection to Life, the Universe. We begin to understand and appreciate the love that life bestows on us. And when we experience challenge and great difficulty, our spiritual strength that we have created through this connection, will enable us to find courage, faith and trust. Ultimately we understand that life happens for us, not to us.
(Based on a talk by Carole Atman and Artur Madejowski)
Light and Blessings