What is Gratitude and Why is it a Spiritual Practice?

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What is gratitude? What does it mean to be grateful? In a concrete sense, it means that you have received or are receiving something that you appreciate. This means that you’ve gone from a state of not having that something to having it, and you realize that you are better off than you were or could have been. This realization brings out a feeling of thankfulness in you. That is gratitude.

Now you don’t have to actually receive something in the moment in order to become grateful in that moment. Just as with all feelings, you can feel gratitude in the abstract. You can cultivate the ability, you can learn the skill, of feeling gratitude whenever you want to. Here are some permission slips you can use to activate the feeling of gratitude within yourself:

1) You can feel grateful for the people or things in your life that you already have. This means remembering the gratitude you felt, or imagining the gratitude you could have felt, at that moment in the past when those people or things came into your life.
2) You can feel grateful for where you are on your journey. Maybe you have worked hard to get where you are now, and you can be grateful that you aren’t still stuck wherever you were in the past, that that part of the hard work you have done is indeed done, and is behind you.
3) If you are feeling a lot of lack, like you don’t really have a lot to be thankful for right now, you can still be grateful that you don’t have less than you have, or that things aren’t worse than they are. After all, it is always true that things could be worse than they are. But they are just as they are, and not worse! So you can be grateful for that.
4) If you are experiencing negativity beyond mere lack, if there are people or circumstances in your life that not only leave something to be desired but are actually undesirable—negative, unpleasant, harmful people or circumstances—well, you can apply that bit of eternal wisdom that says that everything you experience is a reflection of something inside yourself. So if you are having negative experiences, those experiences are giving you the chance to recognize whatever it is inside yourself that needs to be healed or removed, so that you can move on to more positive experiences. The chance to heal is a wondrous gift indeed! So even in negativity, there is something to be grateful for—the opportunity to eliminate the negativity. In other words, all negativity contains the seeds of its own dissolution and replacement by positivity. Thank God for that!

If we think about these different permission slips and what they have in common, you may notice that in each case, a comparison is being made between a worse or more negative state (the before state if you will) and a better or more positive state (the after state). These states can be either actual or potential. So for example, if you are grateful that things aren’t worse than they are, you are comparing a potential more negative state with an actual more positive state. And if you are grateful for a negative experience because of the lessons it can teach you, which you can use to avoid this negative experience in the future, then you are comparing a more negative actual present state with a more positive potential future state, which the negativity itself has made possible for you.

So with that understanding, let’s ask again, what is gratitude? Gratitude arises when you consciously recognize the difference between a negative state and a positive state, and when you also consciously recognize that you are in the more positive state, or have moved into it or have the opportunity to move into it. So fundamentally, the feeling of gratitude is the vibration of being consciously aware that you are moving into greater positivity.

If you are not moving into positivity but just sitting still, perhaps because you are feeling low and stuck in a funk, then you can use gratitude to manifest a move into greater positivity and get you out of the funk. No matter what you use as permission slip to feel grateful, the feeling of gratitude resonates with a move from where you are towards greater positivity, and so it will manifest that move happening. Think of the law of inertia: when an object is at rest, it tends to stay at rest unless a force acts upon it to set it in motion. When you’re feeling down, you may continue feeling down unless something happens to change your vibe. Most of the time we wait for something outside of ourselves to give us a reason to feel better. But what if that never happens? Or if it does, is it only temporary and must we then look for the next “fix”? Well, you don’t have to wait for something outside yourself to come along to get you moving. You can empower yourself by taking charge of your own feelings. You can begin feeling better by feeling gratitude for the good things you have and the positive people and/or things in your life; for how far you’ve come on your journey; or for anything else you can think of.

If you are experiencing negativity, and if you remember that as I said, all negativity contains the seeds of its own dissolution, then you can feel grateful even for the negativity for helping you to overcome it, and then that feeling of gratitude will speed up the process because again it resonates with a move towards greater positivity so that feeling it will help you manifest that move.

If and when you do move into greater positivity, you can make it even better by adding gratitude—that is, by focusing your awareness on the change into greater positivity. So if you develop a consistent practice of feeling gratitude, it can put you on an upward spiral as your gratitude manifests more positivity and the added positivity gives you more reason to feel grateful.

What sits at the extreme positive end of the spectrum of positivity and negativity? Source, the One Infinite Creator. This means that moving towards greater positivity is the same as moving towards Unity and towards Source. So in the end, the feeling of gratitude is closely related to becoming One with everything. Feeling into the feeling of gratitude, it feels like being connected with God – it feels like total acceptance and love. Feeling gratitude helps you to manifest the joyful life you want because that ideal life resonates with Divinity and is on the road to Divinity.

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