The Essence of Gratitude

I love the popularity of gratitude practices. Gratitude mindfulness is a simple way to improve all kinds of physical and mental health. We become more empathetic, sleep better, and have better self-esteem. The beauty of having an actual practice versus just trying to be more grateful is we open up the pathways in our body to let gratitude flow through us. When we write in a journal or speak our thanks before a meal, we are bringing our gratitude into the 3-D.

But let’s go beyond the simplicity of giving thanks. Gratitude, like many things, is a circle, a cycle; it is a coin with two sides. Many of us wish to impact the world in a deep way. To be good givers, we also have to be good receivers. Being able to receive someone else’s gratitude for something you gave to them closes the circle. It completes the cycle. It is the other side of the giving coin. It is gratitude that comes home. Think of a time that you shared a gift with someone and they couldn’t accept it. How did that make you feel? Conversely, think of a time someone gave you a gift. You were so grateful that all you wanted was to share your thanks with them, but they blocked it. They didn’t mean to hurt you, but they didn’t have a place set up in their system to receive your gratitude.

For me, when a compliment or praise, thanks, or a gift came at me, my habit was to scrape away a little bit of myself so there was less of me for that gratitude to land on. Many of us just block it altogether, and then, of course, the most popular activity is to deflect gratitude. We say, “it was nothing,” or pass the gratitude onto someone or something else. It was nothing? Is that what you meant?

If you really plan on being Big Help to the world, then you better plan on people being grateful for you. If I want to create positive change in the world or in someone’s life, then they will eventually feel grateful and want to express that in return. If I am not prepared for others to express gratitude, if I don’t have a place for it to land or block the landing pad, then I am less likely to give something that they can truly be grateful for.

Now, of course, it can be easy to try to create space for gratitude from the ego as well. This is making your landing pad in the head. When someone is sending you gratitude, what they are really doing is sending you to love and you don’t receive love from the head, you receive it in the heart and in your center.

Your aim here is to open up some space in your center to actually receive this. Bring some consciousness to where that system is in your body. What does it look like, what does it feel like, how does it work, and what is behind the block?

If receiving gratitude is one side of the coin, then sending it is the other. Let’s go a little deeper here too. In our society, it is common for us to feel an emotion or have an experience and then shame or negate that experience by saying, “but I should be grateful for what I have.” Yes, we should be grateful. But what is that statement subtly doing, does thinking I should be more grateful bring you gratitude? For most, bringing gratitude in this way negates your experience. You say I have experience, but my experience is wrong because other people have different experiences. We make ourselves wrong. We mean to bring in gratitude, but what we actually do is bring in guilt. When you truly want to express your gratitude, you are desiring to express love. Instead of thinking about the things you are supposed to give thanks for, connect with the things that remind us of our love. Your job is to get your love out.

When our love and gratitude stay in our body we get caught in a whirlpool. There is a separation between ourselves and the world. We want to get our love out but we don’t have a practice for that so we bring in more guilt or search for external validation to fill the center, but the hole just gets deeper.

So what are some ways to get your love out? A simple practice is gratitude sharing with people you love. Put your hand on your heart. Take a few breaths and ask yourself what do you love? Begin sharing that and keep going, let the love from your heart move through you and speak it into the world. Don’t think, just go. What you find might surprise you.

If you want to take it one step further, let it out with your body. After speaking your love, pick songs that express love for the world and give yourself the time and space to dance. Or if you aren’t ready for all that, maybe just place your hand on your heart and rock a little, let your body move a little.

This season, let us make an attempt to bring more mindfulness into our gratitude practice. Let us make an attempt to move from guilt to love and let us create more space so we can receive the love of others.

Happy Thanksgiving my friends.

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