Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Gratitude

From infancy through our teenage years, many of us receive a free and nurturing ride from loving parents. We do not question why our parents bother, but rather we take their largesse for granted and expect it. As children we typically show no gratitude for the food we eat, for the clothes we wear, for the air we breathe, for the body we inhabit. The whole package arrives as a given, with no effort on our part. Indeed, as children we look for ways to extend the bounty to luxuries, throwing tantrums when the extras are withheld.

We enter society oblivious to the hard fact that many paid in blood to secure the freedoms we take as our birthright. We turn to the medical profession to heal our body and extend our life. We enjoy the innumerable fruits of science and technology. Yet we never consider how much of this we could produce on our own. We completely disregard the armies of researchers, teachers, and factory hands, farmers and truckers, carpenters and miners, artists, musicians, soldiers, journalists and the rest, whose collective talents and efforts produce this life, this civilization. We even think we own this beautiful Earth, rather than the other way around. Contemplating this remarkably wonderful situation that we have been born into awakens our gratitude.

In the spiritual path also, we tend to take for granted the treasure houses of wisdom and methods refined over millennia, which give us hope of standing on the shoulders of our predecessors. They have bequeathed to us an invaluable legacy of spiritual practices, ours if we make the necessary efforts.

Do I deserve all this? What do I owe for it? What can I contribute to repay my share? Will the world be better for my having lived?

One straightforward method for awakening gratitude that psychologists have developed is keeping a gratitude journal. Once a week, we write down five things, described in five sentences, for which we felt grateful that week. The Sufis have a similar practice of inwardly saying “Thank you, God” whenever anything happens, good, bad, or indifferent. Another method is to thank people whenever they do something kind.

The awakening of conscience, the hidden seat of wisdom within us, manifests in the stirrings of gratitude for this magnificent world and our life in it. Gratitude leads us to see our obligations to serve, to accept rather than shirk responsibility. Gratitude pierces the veil of egoism, showing that the world was not made for me alone. Instead of eagerly grasping for what we want and desperately avoiding what we don’t want, gratitude brings us a new approach, humility and dignity of heart. We look inside and we look around, and then we say to God and our fellow human beings: Thank You.


        

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