Gratitude

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This time of year usually stirs up the desire to reflect upon the last 12 months, and to express gratitude for all that we have. The following quote (long but good!) was sent to me and unfortunately I couldn’t find the name of the author. I hope you enjoy it, and happy holidays to you and yours!

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough. Gratitude turns failures into success, suffering into a chance for renewal, the unexpected into perfect timing. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace to today, and clarity for tomorrow. Gratitude merely smiles at dissatisfaction and disappointment.

It was during one very painful period of my life that I made a firm choice to walk the path of gratitude. At a time when my suffering had reached the depths, when I felt misunderstood and betrayed by some of those I trusted to stand by me, I made the seemingly irrational choice to be thankful. In my pain, I had chosen to focus on awareness of what was good in my life in the present. The only other choice was not to be thankful, to resent the actual conditions of my life and everything that had created those conditions. It was then that I saw that I could be grateful for the pain and what it was telling me. In essence I was learning to trust something beyond my immediate circumstances, something that restored my sense of peace, strength and openness to life.

When something so manifestly good and generous happens, it is natural to respond with gratitude. But in a way the very naturalness of this response has its down side, for it appears to confirm the notion that gratitude is a response; it is evoked by a prior action. And it is exactly this notion that the great spiritual teachers of all traditions have consistently challenged. And precisely in this challenge lies our freedom. Yes, it’s easy to be grateful when something good has been done for you (although, sadly, even this healthy human response seems increasingly under challenge nowadays is our escalating culture of entitlement and victimhood.) But have you ever thought about gratitude not as a response but as a force in its own right: an initiating and healing energy that is not dependent on external circumstances but is rather an innate power of the human soul? When understood and wielded in this fashion, it has the power to liberate us from our self-imposed prisons of self-pity and envy and to actually change the energy fields (and hence, the outcome) of our circumstances. In plain words, we can actually change our reality by being grateful first: not as a response but as an innate way of being.

A lot of people will tell you to make up lists of things in your life to be grateful for. (“Counting your blessings”) You don’t have to conjure up lists of things to talk yourself into being grateful for. It’s hard to cajole your feelings into logical response; feelings are not logical. Instead I’d suggest simply being quiet inside, paying attention to the rise and fall of your breathing, your heartbeat, the sensation of your feet on the ground or the breeze against your cheek. Let your story go for a few minutes, with all its wants and needs, and pay attention ‘not to what you are but THAT you are’. And in that connection lies the true source of your abundance and the wellspring of gratitude. A well-known Sufi teacher summarizes this teaching well: ‘If you can learn to make all cares into one care, the care for simply being present, you will be cared for by that presence, which is itself creative power and love.’ Gradually you will come to see that gratitude is not a response; it is something that is always flowing through you, and that you can learn to flow with. To be thankful for both abundance and hard times is wisdom, for thankfulness is the panacea that turns pain into happiness.”

– Author unknown
 

Claudia MasonComment