Gratitude is a skill we’ve not been well taught in the west. Perhaps as a child, we were taught to respect our elders, to say thank you, and say grace before dinner. Thanks was a kind of conditional thing, laid on to be polite or ‘nice’ or even because it was simply demanded. We may have come to associate gratitude with subservience.
In the east, people were often raised to choose a personal god or deity that they favor for their expressions of gratitude. The greeting Namaste means ‘I bow to the divine in you’. God is everywhere. But even there, much of it is prescribed and can often be petitionary. In other words, less to express gratitude and more to ask for favors.
The key to happiness is moving into sync with the flow of being. We could say, sync with the ways of God. The closer we are to the deeper ways of the world, the greater we will enjoy heaven on earth. Heaven and hell are not somewhere else. If you want to see someone in hell, just watch the evening news. If you want to see someone in heaven, you have to look a little harder. But not far. Heaven is the here and now.
In Deepest Being, I touched on the mechanics of the process of how Being becomes. When awareness becomes aware of itself, there is a recognition, and in that recognition is a celebration. Love flows. From another view, we can see it is bliss that flows. And in other view it is gratitude. They are the 3 sides of the coin, to mangle a metaphor.
If we can tune ourselves to any of these, we are tuning ourselves to the movement of our essential being. The root of peace, happiness, and success. If we are acting from that which expresses through those feelings, how can it be otherwise? In a broad way, we can see the devotional path is dominated by a focus on love. The path of doing is dominated by bliss, the seed of movement. The path of (through) mind, more dominant in the west, is best seeded with gratitude.
You may say ah, but if it is the approach of mind, why an emotion? Because we have to bring along all limbs, all aspects of our being. Our heart is the bridge to unity. For someone in the head, who has perhaps had trust issues, does not wish to go into their feelings so much, and is challenged by ideas like ‘surrender’ and ‘faith’, gratitude is the solution.
I’m not speaking of praying to God, unless that is what suits you. I am speaking about simple appreciation for what is. It is a culturing of the attitude, shifting from the repeating story tapes about how we screwed up or were wronged, into an attitude of appreciation. That simple change, that opening to accept what is, is the different between happiness and suffering. Its that simple.
There are a number of excellent techniques out there for overcoming your dramas and perceived limitations. I’ve talked about some here a few times. But a key to opening the heart is the habit of gratitude. I’m not talking some perfunctory affirmation you don’t believe, although it may start out that way. I’m talking about a simple recognition of some things you have to be grateful for, like people in your life, your health, and so forth. The less you can think of to be grateful for, the more you need this. Consider yourself poor? Try this. People in North America are often oblivious to just how fortunate we are.
You may find a little prayer of heartfelt thanks works for you. For myself, the trick was the Gratitude Rock idea presented by Lee Brower in the film The Secret. As i mention in Clearing the Heart, the idea is quite simple. You find a small rock, about an inch around. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I found mine on a gravel path. You could use any similar small and hardy object. You keep it with your keys. When you get your keys in the am and put them away in the pm, when you pull them out during the day, you will run into the rock. When you do, you simply think of something new to be grateful for. And you feel that gratitude as best you can in the moment. Then let it go. Go on with your life. Thats it.
Over time, this begins to culture a broader sense of gratitude. And that then will present you with spontaneous moments of clarity when you can release. Forgive, allow whatever you have held on to. In just a few moments, huge loads of trash are dumped. Burdens we didn’t even realize we carried. No need to step into the mud, just allow them to be what they are and they are done. All this time, they just needed to be acknowledged for what is. Each time, the clarity is increased. We find we are holding to something of every relationship we have ever had. Cleared. And finally we come to the core. We come to the clarity to forgive ourselves. And in that forgiving, we find there was nothing to forgive.
After a time, I found that little rock was like it was blessed. It just radiated happiness. Soon, i did too and the barriers to being who I was vanished. With the rock, I slayed Goliath.
I collected a few dozen rocks along that seaside gravel path. I keep them in a tray on the coffee table so visitors can pick one they like.