I wrote this piece a few years ago. Given the state of affairs in the U.S. and around the world in 2020, I wanted to share it again.
The dictionary defines gratitude as a noun. I have found it to be a verb— expressed through attitude, action or an active state of being. It both requires something of us and brings unexpected gifts of physical, emotional, mental, relational and spiritual health. To live with gratitude uses and quickens the three centers of intelligence that help us stay connected to ourselves: the awareness that comes from the Quiet and awake Mind, the receptivity and unconditional generosity of our Open Heart, and a settling into one’s physical experience that comes with the Grounded Belly. The more we can access these three activated centers, the greater our degree of presence. And gratitude can only be fully realized in the precious presence.
Gratitude changes us.
Exploring the Six Dimensions of Gratitude
On a very human level, gratitude challenges any temptation toward self-pity, victimization, self-grandiosity or other form of narcissism, and uplifts us to our higher nature. Ultimately, Gratitude is an act of being a conscious partner in the play of the Universe. It grows our perspective of what it means to be alive. Authentic gratitude is very simply, transformative,
I suggest that there is a “continuum” of gratitude consisting of 6 dimensions. Each is identified below, along with a particular example or practice.
1. Recognize specific aspects of your life for which you are grateful.
Identify some of the specific aspects of life for which you are grateful.
For example, set aside two-three times/week to reflect on and, if you like, write about what you are grateful for and why you are grateful for that particular experience. Allow yourself to sense into this experience, so that you are not just thinking about it, but also noticing how it affects your heart.
2. Identify a ‘present moment’ awareness for which you are grateful (e.g. about yourself, about others, about your opportunities, about our home — the earth).
For example, when you are in a particular situation at work, at home, with a friend or family member, you might ask yourself the following:
What am I particularly grateful for about this situation?
How is this gratitude affecting my heart?
What changes do I experience in my body? You may notice subtle or obvious changes in your inner sensations.
3. Express gratitude to others.
Identify 10 people (if you have trouble with this, start with identifying one or two people) who have had a positive impact on your life.
How could you express your authentic appreciation to these important people?
For example, you might write a personal letter thanking each person for his or her specific influence on you and send it by snail mail. Can you imagine the impact that would have on them?
4. Find the gifts in difficult circumstances or difficult relationships and experience gratitude for those gifts.
For example, see a person perceived as being the source of difficulty or as a pain as a ‘teacher’ of something that you are learning. Asking, “What is this person here to teach me?” is a powerful question. Many of my students and clients have found this to be a potent source of change in their lives.
5. Receive gratitude from others.
Ahhh—this may be more difficult than expressing gratitude: Practice receiving gratitude and thanks from others.
Even if it’s challenging, acknowledge it and experiment with accepting positive regard and appreciation from others. (I know. For some, this breaks all your old rules.)
What is it that allows you to receive? What are you surrendering?
6. Be a person of gratitude.
When you practice recognizing the gifts in your life, expressing thanks and receiving the gratitude of others, eventually you will notice a qualitative difference in your life. Practicing gives way to living with the miraculous and the mystery of life.
This continuum of recognizing—to acting upon—to being/living from—naturally will begin to re-orient your life toward more expansiveness.
May gratitude support you as you allow it to change you. It is an important part of my life, and helps me return to joy and surrender when I might drift.
Thank you for all you do to bring presence and gratitude into the world. It matters.
Wishing you many blessings and sending Thanksgiving wishes around the world,