The Power of Gratitude
Gratitude is a renewable energy. It is a magnetic, attractive and transmutative force that becomes self-perpetuating, engendering even more things for which to be grateful.
In Spanish the word for “thank you,” gracias, also means grace. We can say that gratitude is a state of being, a state of grace.
Living in gratitude—a gratitude attitude—transmutes challenges and situations we wish had turned out a different way. These are learning opportunities, the grain of sand that transforms into a pearl. When we learn to be grate-full for all of it—the good and the challenging—our hearts are filled with grace.
Gratitude gives us the power to change any situation, or at least, our attitude toward and experience of it. It is at first a practice, until it becomes second nature, a state of being.
You might, for example, take on a practice of writing down three things each day for which you are grateful. Some choose to keep a gratitude journal. Even making a one-time list can be a powerful process and bring about this state of being.
At one point in my life I was feeling stuck, imprisoned by a situation. There seemed to be no graceful way out. Sitting on top of a hill in San Francisco overlooking the city and Golden Gate Park all the way out to the ocean, I found myself compiling a list of things I didn’t like about my life. After a while I could not think of anything else about my current situation, but I was on a roll and decided to keep going back, capturing anything I had made wrong, disliked or felt bad about in my entire life. After a couple of hours there was nothing else left inside of me. I felt cleansed, purified. Spontaneously, I began to create a list of things for which I was grateful. That simple practice got me out of a funk and helped shift the way I was perceiving certain experiences. By the end of the process, in a very natural way, I began to notice on my gratitude list some of the very same things that had been on my “hate list.”
As part of our practice we make it a point to remember how much we have to be grateful for. We remember, for example, that in our world 1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day and 2.6 billion people live on less than $2 a day. That means more than a third of the population on the planet is still barely surviving at the physical level! And even among those of us fortunate enough to live in the developed world with a roof over our heads and access to education, not to mention plentiful food, electricity and water, a large majority is still caught up in a rat race trying to make ends meet at the end of the month—barely surviving and not living fully. Considering the fact that 1 in 5 adults in the world are still illiterate, that you are reading this article about gratitude is quite a privilege. Viewed in this larger context, depression is a luxury.
Gratitude gives us power over every situation. It is contagious. We are not talking about an airy-fairy, saccharine, Pollyanna gratitude but one that is raw and genuine and brings about thankfulness for the gift of being alive, for the privilege of being in a body.
Living in this way is freeing and requires only one sacrifice: we must give up our attachment to suffering, struggle, drama, and the underlying addiction to victim consciousness. The word sacrifice means “making sacred.” By letting go of this stuff, we make our life sacred, full of grace.