This post is part of a synchroblog on gratitude as a spiritual practice. The other contributions are listed at the end of this post.
Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind. – Lionel Hampton
I think of gratitude as essential to my spiritual health as prayer and meditation.
I love the idea of gratitude and I believe that being grateful and remembering what we are grateful for can have a positive impact on ourselves, on others and on the world we live in.
And practicing gratitude sounds so simple … make a list of the things you are grateful for, take a walk for ten minutes and think about what you are grateful for, blog about being grateful everyday in the month of November, always start your prayer with thanksgiving.
But, over the years I’ve come to realize that practicing gratitude isn’t as simple or easy as it sounds. So, I thought I would share what I have learned over the years about practicing gratitude.
Once you begin to attempt the spiritual practice of gratitude it quickly becomes obvious that there are times when you are going through the motions of practicing gratitude but everything that is the very essence of gratitude seems to have slipped out the back door of your soul. You are mouthing the words, you are thinking the thoughts, but you don’t feel thankful right now – life is beating you up, things aren’t going your way, you are hurting, afraid, lonely, worried. You may be saying “I’m thankful for this and that” but you don’t feel thankful and you don’t really feel like taking the time to remember something you’re thankful for. You begin to wonder if practicing gratitude is the answer to what ails you – is it really helpful?, does it work?, is it worth the time and effort?
One thing I have learned over the years and have to remember when practicing gratitude is that it is NOT the answer to pain. In fact, if there is an answer to pain I haven’t found it. BUT, I do believe that practicing gratitude may be what opens something up inside of me so that I am able to receive the light and comfort that my soul seeks and needs in order to heal. I do believe that practicing gratitude, even when the feelings aren’t there, creates a path that I can follow back to peace and harmony.
Another thing I have learned over the years is that practicing gratitude does not mean that I will never have a sad or negative thought or that I have to replace every sad or negative thought with a positive one. Some days, when our grief is still too raw, aren’t good days for the spiritual practice of gratitude. I don’t ever want to fall into the trap of thinking that practicing gratitude means that it is wrong or bad to allow ourselves to experience pain or suffering. I don’t want to pretend, or encourage anyone to pretend, that loss or sickness or injury or catastrophe or any other bad thing that we experience does not exist or impact us. What HAS turned out to be true for me is that the practice of gratitude is an essential element when I am ready to start the healing process.
And most recently I have learned that practicing gratitude and positive thinking are different Positive thinking is an approach to life but practicing gratitude is a response to life. Good thoughts are probably necessary for our success but gratitude is our sincere appreciation for the gifts of life that we have experienced. I’ve heard that gratitude is not only a virtue but that it is the mother to all the other virtues. I don’t know if that is true but I do think that gratitude often leads to positive thoughts and positive actions.
What are some insights that you have to share about practicing gratitude?
Check out the other contributions to this month’s synchroblog:
- Jeremy Myers – 5 Things to be Unthankful For
- Glenn Hager – Gr-atitude
- Carol Kuniholm – Grateful
- Amy Martin – Gratitude in a Culture of Economy
- Leah at Desert Spirit Fire - Living Thanks
- Kathy Escobar - turning our ingrown eyeballs up & out
- Jack Kooyman – Gratitude as Action
- Liz Dyer – Practicing Gratitude
- Christine Sine – Where is God When Disaster Hits?