My journey to living in gratitude began in 2010. And let me say that up until that time, until I was age 45, I was a complainer, griper and a whiner, with absolutely no reason to complain! Luckily, I was saved from these very wasteful, counter-productive habits when I was given a blank journal one Thanksgiving season by a New Thought minister, who told us if we journaled 5 things we were grateful for 40 days, our life would change exponentially for the better. She did this two years in a row, I dutifully wrote my gratitude lists and oh my god, my life did change. It worked! I let go of complaining and started focusing on all the good in my life, and there is plenty.
I hope you are now convinced that being grateful is very beneficial to us, and I will go on into a more complicated, sometimes more challenging gratitude practice, which is Radical Gratitude.
It is my belief that we can almost always find a reason to be grateful, even when confronted with tragedies, unexpected disasters, or even ill health. And this holds true for challenging people in our lives as well. Here are two disclaimers:
In the summer of 2018, Oregon (where I live) had many devastating wildfires. One of them was dangerously close to our home! We watched in horror and disbelief as it came closer and closer. It became obvious we would probably be evacuated. The smoke was black, firefighters, and National Guard were checking everyone’s IDs before letting them enter the street to our house. Neighbors and I got out of our cars to stop and watch it burning fields and trees so close to our homes. I tried to keep a positive attitude, but it got to be only ½ mile up a street from our home. Very very scary! I love where we live and the thought of losing our home was terrifying. On a Saturday afternoon, as I tried to take a nap to escape, our phones started ringing and texting that we were in Level 3, evacuation time. Get out now. We took our dogs and my cockatiels, computer, important papers, some clothes and left the rest. We were evacuated for six days and got to come home – all houses and neighbors were thankfully safe and sound. Here are my gratitude takeaways:
One more example which changed my life incredibly in so many ways was going through a divorce after 24 years. This was a very difficult decision, I wasn’t sure if it was the right one, and my ex-husband ended up deciding for us. I was very heart-broken. So heart-broken that I finally sought out the Center for Spiritual Living, in Santa Rosa, CA which many people in my life had gently suggested I might attend because they felt I would love it too. And I did!!!! From the moment I entered, I got tears in my eyes, seeing all the loving, warm people and as I listened to the talk, I realized even more that this would be my spiritual home the rest of my life, and it has been. I am eternally grateful for my divorce now. I took the spiritual classes voraciously; became a licensed practitioner, now serving in Oregon where I live. I am blessed to teach spiritual classes and workshops, and in 2019, I spoke at two Centers for Spiritual Living about the topics in this article. I eventually met my second husband who I have been with for almost 20 years and we are much more compatible. He asked me to move to Oregon and I did. And I am in love with the forest, rivers and beauty. None of this would have happened had I stayed in my first marriage. Very thankful!
In each of these cases, some gratitude was easily available, but more came later. It may take time, even many years to find the gratitude, but looking for it helps your healing.
I want to mention several well-known people and how they found radical gratitude in their lives. Each is very inspiring to me!
Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist who ended up being put into concentration camps during the Holocaust, and amazingly, found a way to stay positive and ended up writing this book Man’s Search for Meaning which has sold 15 million copies and thus, impacted so many people’s lives. His premise is that we need to find meaning in life, and that will help carry us through even the hardest situations. He was a walking example. Here is a quote from his powerful book:
“Everything can be taken…but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Will Pye who wrote the book Gratitude Prescription, Harnessing the Power of Thankfulness for Healing and Happiness was himself diagnosed with a brain tumor and through gratitude, healed himself completely.
Here is a quote from his excellent book about radical gratitude:
“In looking at our self and our life story through the lens of gratitude, we can come into contact with the beauty and heroism inherent in every human alive. Gratitude for self supports a compassion encompassing all of us.”
There are other examples too, of physical healing, where the person ends up being grateful for the illness. Anita Moorjani, realized on a deep level that we are love, truly knowing this after a Near Death Experience, and could let go of her fear of cancer completely, and had a spontaneous remission. It is her calling to share her findings with others and her beautiful book Dying to Be Me has reached millions of people across the world.
Helen Keller has always been one of my heroes. Even though she was deaf and blind at such a young age, she somehow always found reasons to express her gratitude. I share a very powerful quote from her:
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart. I thank God for my handicaps. So much has been given me, I have no time to ponder over that which has been denied.”
In conclusion, I truly believe that we can almost always find gratitude in even the most challenging situations. It may take time, so be patient. I feel that life is about how we respond to it, and we are always at choice, like Victor Frankl and Helen Keller so beautifully prove. I feel my own life examples also show this.
Being radically grateful is not always easy but incredibly worthwhile. Our attitude truly affects our lives and living with gratitude is powerful beyond measure. I hope I have helped you be able to pick yourself up by your gratitude bootstraps when times are tough.
Deborah Perdue, author of the beautiful Grace of Gratitude Journal and four other gratitude books, loves to share the powerful practice of gratitude. She teaches workshops and classes, and is an award-winning book designer. See her blogs at http://www.graceofgratitude.com/category/blog/ and listen to her talk on the same subject at http://www.graceofgratitude.com/events/. You can sign up for free daily Gratitude Reflection emails on the home page at http://www.graceofgratitude.com/
Thanksgiving is drawing ever so close, and maybe it is time to re-evaluate our understanding of this celebration, which is held in such high regard by Americans and Canadians alike. At this time of the year, most of us focus on being thankful, which is great, but we sometimes forget about the weightier and more spiritual concept of gratitude. The two terms are used interchangeably, but they are centuries apart when it comes to implication.
So, what is the difference between gratitude and thankfulness? Thankfulness refers to expression while gratitude is a state of being When you sit at the dinner table across from friends and loved ones this thanksgiving, you will be glad that they found the time to be with you. You are thankful for their presence in your life and you are happy that everything has been well with them since the last celebration. However, gratitude goes way deeper than that. It is a state of being, where you feel a sense of appreciation coming from deep within you. You are at peace with the world and you appreciate that state of affairs from deep within. The feeling of calm these thoughts and emotions bring to mind is all fulfilling.
Acts of thankfulness last a moment while gratitude is a way of life During thanksgiving, we get attuned to the presence of others in our lives. We express our fondness of friends and loved ones, and embrace their gestures of love and affection. The gestures we extend are a sign of thankful- ness. During this time, however, the way we feel and the things we show are a manifestation of our state of mind. Gratefulness is essentially a way of life, and it entails staying aware of our place in universe. It requires us to stay alert of the role of others in our lives, staying connected to what everyone around us does to keep us happy. This is different from the fleeting nature of the act of saying a mere ‘thank you’. Through thankfulness, we get to make a sense of our lives and learn to credit our loved ones with the appreciation they deserve.
Thankfulness is a social norm applicable in general situations while gratitude is the special manifestation of spirituality, love and affection It is easy to go out to the store and say something nice to an attendant or fellow shopper for one thing or an- other. This is a sign of thankfulness for something they have done for you. You are saying thank you to a stranger, but beyond that, there are no ties. Gratitude is the manifestation of love, devotion and commitment to- wards those who mean the world to you. It encompasses shared experiences, shared love and an understanding that the universe has conspired to keep us happy, and help us understand how connected we are to others.
As we head into that special time in November, find a Gratitude Journal, and open your mind up to just how helpful this simple practice may be on the path toward embracing and better understanding the sheer spirituality in the concept of gratitude.