Practicing gratitude increases our appreciation for life. It brings balance to those parts of the self that have cultivated attachment to our suffering, causing us to feel victimized by life, making God’s imagined dial tone all too appealing. Although we might suspect that gratitude would cause us to tarry, to grasp at more, it actually potentiates our letting go into life and death with an open heart.
Gratitude is the highest form of acceptance. Like patience, it is one of the catalytic agents, one of the alchemist’s secrets, for turning dross to gold, hell to heaven, death to life. Where there is gratitude we get the teaching. Where there is resistance we discover only that it keeps us painfully ignorant. Of course, if we had enough acceptance to explore our nonacceptance, if we learned nothing but that resistance amplified our suffering, we would be eternally grateful.
We cannot feign gratitude any more than we can pretend forgiveness. Gratitude is a way of seeing, of being. It is a response from our innate wisdom to our accumulated confusion. It is the luminous ground on which we plant our temporary feet.
Stephen Levine, A Year to Live: How to live this year as if it were your last. (94)
This past week, a good friend of mine tagged me on Facebook suggesting to post three things for which I am grateful for five days. I could have ignored the invitation, but in fact I liked it and did what was suggested. In the process, I found new reasons to be grateful, — for which I am grateful.
It seems that I need to experience my own inner poverty to be really able to recognize all that life gives to me. Not only life’s gifts, but also life’s wisdom: I am slowly coming to see how important the challenging times I went through have been; I’m nearly tempted to say that my bad times were a good thing in a way.
Take the book quoted above. I read it sixteen years ago when I sensed that breast cancer was hovering over me. It taught me the ABC of forgiveness and gratefulness. I say the ABC because I am a slow learner. I find it easier to be grateful than forgiving, as if a small devil inside of me had fun raking me over the coals of bitterness for some wrongs done to me decades ago.
Gratitude is a key to a door leading to parts of my psyche which would remain hidden to me otherwise. It is a grace then, a gift granted by Godde when I give up control over my life.
Today, while typing the quote, I sensed that it was also fitting be grateful “for me”, for what the life energy flowing through my body, this breath which I share with the Divine, allows me to experience, to live, to receive from and give back to the cosmos.
Continuing on the experiment I started five days ago, today I am grateful for the breath of Godde which sustains me, creating me anew every moment and keeping me alive, safe, well and surrounded with people I love and who love me.
Finally, I thank you, Jane, my FB friend, for having been such a channel of grace to me, — one more reason for which to be grateful!
Illustration: Ernest H. Shepherd for A.A. Milne
(Thanks to Mel for this information)