The Power of Gratitude
When we think of giving gratitude, we tend to immediately associate our sense of gratefulness with the good things in life that have benefited us and brought us joy, love, success and happiness. Gratitude, in our culture, tends to be in relationship to getting what we want or desire. When we do, our gratitude flows in abundance. In our world view, life is only good when everything goes good for us. If it’s not going well, we tend to immediately interpret that something is wrong…with us, our work, the world etc., the list can go on and on. When we do not get what we want, when struggles and challenges arise, we feel as if life is against us. Life is unfair. Our gratitude then swiftly disappears and we start sinking into sadness, fear, depression, anger and grief.
The fact is, we live in a world of paradox and duality. This is an inescapable truth. So why in the world do we believe, on some level, that we should be immune and untouched by troubles and hardship? It is a part of Nature and life. Somehow, we seem to have collectively adopted the belief that life should be easy and without obstacles. That seems to be our goal. We want to do nothing, just sit on the beach all day living an effortless life having all our needs met.
It’s simply not possible.
Believing this way only sets us up for suffering, disappointment and pain. We have become so detached from Nature that we have forgotten that we are governed by the same intelligence, laws and cycles of Nature. There is nothing in nature that does not experience adversity. Adversity is a catalyst that activates creativity and new growth. Since we are also Nature, this means we can gain a lot of useful insight by learning more about and understanding the endless intelligence and creativity of Nature.
There is also nothing in Nature that is not wired for resilience. Resilience is the capacity to adapt, re-create and resource oneself in the face of adversity. For example, in Nature, the mighty blade of grass finds a small fissure in the cement that is covering it, through which it can finally grow to the light of day. It found a way, as we can find our way as well. Resilience is our ability to creatively adapt to ‘adversarial’ circumstances so that we can grow and thrive no matter what. We are all wired with this capacity, yet, if we don’t understand this, nor do we know how to strengthen our resilience, we get quite lost and most often feel alone in the world and powerless.
What does this have to do with gratitude?
Cultivating appreciation and gratitude are two of the strongest inner resources that strengthen and nourish our connection to life. This in turn awakens our inner desire and resilience to thrive. Gratitude, however, is actually a choice that often requires effort. Gratitude is not only an end result of beneficial outcomes. Gratitude is about giving focus and appreciation to the good in life and in ourselves and others, no matter what else is happening. In our darkest moments is when we need to access gratitude the most.
In my 20’s I read about Victor Frankyl. He was a holocaust survivor, who, in spite of seeing and experiencing firsthand the darkest and most hateful actions of his fellow humans, he emerged grateful and with his love for life and humanity fully intact. Even when he was given soup with rotting fish heads, he connected to gratitude. He focused and chose to not let his life circumstances rob him of his humanity and love of life.
His gratitude strengthened his resilience to make it through his darkest of moments
It seems totally impossible to do right? Yet, he did it.
He is the living example of what each of us has the potential to do as well: to master our mind and emotions, so we can intentionally give more power to what is good in this world, rather than dwelling on what is wrong and bad. This does not mean ignoring what is challenging or bad. It is not about positive thinking. It’s about learning to give more value and appreciation to what is good, as a way to strengthen ourselves in the face of adversity, so we can better navigate the hard and dark moments in life that we all face at times. For example, without bringing a light into a dark cave, how can we possibly expect to find our way back out? To encounter and overcome darkness, we need light.
Gratitude is that light, which grows love and appreciation
Having lived through my own experiences of trauma and abuse, that had at times left me feeling in the dark, utterly hopeless and depressed, I was deeply touched and motivated by reading his story. It lit my heart up. I decided that if he could do it, then so could I! I told myself that I had no excuse after seeing his example. My world shifted dramatically after this. Instead of dwelling on what wasn’t working and on my pain and sadness, I chose to give my attention to what lifted my heart more. I started giving more value to the simple moments and encounters that brought joy. Nature was my biggest source of awe, wonder and gratitude. Still is.
I let myself be touched by the nuances of beauty around me, every moment of every day. The more I connected to life this way, the more I healed and the inner pains and darkness dissipated until my joy of life fully returned.
There really is so much to be grateful for that can give us the inner light and fuel we need to go through the darkness, to reach the other side, when we look for it and appreciate it. So, why not use our power of choice, to choose thoughts that will lift us, give us the hope, the love, the joy we need, to be able to meet and get through the darkness? Rather than ignoring and squishing out the light of gratitude and love with our doubts, fears and worries, which then just leaves us trapped in the cave, in the darkness of our minds with no way out.
Love is always with us, in us and around us, it truly is, but we forget and get distracted by the noise of stress and pressure in life, so much so, that we fail to notice it. In failing to notice it we also fail at nourishing and feeding Love to grow within and around us.
It’s a simple equation really:
Gratitude– Inspires Appreciation
Appreciation– Nourishes Joy
Joy– Feeds Love
Love– Inspires Hope
I invite you to put this to the test. You can begin practicing connecting to gratitude at the beginning and end of each day, for the little and big things. Create a gratitude journal even, and just notice the positive shifts and changes this action inevitably brings. I also invite you to take deep breathes when you do this. Even if at this moment you feel you have only one thing to be grateful for, keep focusing on that, that was me at first too. It will eventually inspire more to be grateful for. 🙂
Where our attention goes, our energy flows and that is what grows. Let 2021 be a year of growing love and goodness within ourselves and each other by being grateful for this incredible gift of life we share!