We might start by defining what gratitude is. Gratitude is feeling (and maybe also showing) appreciation and thankfulness for whatever it is that we receive or happens to us. Looking at some dictionary definitions, I also notice that gratitude involves wanting to reciprocate what someone has done for us, though I’m not quite sure of that part.
I am not sure because we can be grateful to people for things they do for us, but we can also be grateful to life, the Universe, God or current circumstances for whatever blessings we find in our way. In the latter case, reciprocating will not occur, or at least not in the traditional sense.
When we you are grateful to someone, you will first want to express this feeling to the other person. This can sometimes be difficult, a little bit like when you know you need to apologise but feel so bad about what you did that you dare not say anything to the other person, and your apology and the need for it starts to fester inside. You can feel too shy to say thank you, or perhaps you are too overcome and overwhelmed and don’t know what to say.
As we have said before, the first step here is to allow yourself to feel gratefulness. Fully experience it and inhabit it. Once you have done this, you need to express your gratefulness. People will help you for a number of reasons, and many times they are not expecting anything in return. But saying thank you is, first of all, good manners. Plus it is a priceless gift you give the other person: I see you. I see what you did. I value it, and I value you. Also, many times you are not in a position to reciprocate the other person’s action right away, but showing your appreciation of their action will be enough.
During our lifetimes, we will also be thanful for the good that comes into our lives. And hopefully for the bad, too. The key word here, again, is appreciation. In order to be grateful, we need to be able to see, to notice, that goodness. That is the first requirement.
If you are going through a difficult moment, it is sometimes very hard, seemingly impossible, to notice the little shards of light in the horrible darkness. If you feel very weakened, you might even find it unfeasible to imagine what good things you would like to have in your life, let alone notice anything good you might have in your life at the moment. If you are in a temporary dark place, this might not be so hard for you, but still you need to muster the strength to sit there and quietly number the things, situations and people in your life for which you are grateful.
Perhaps you cannot find anything to be grateful for at the present moment. I don’t know the circumstances that you are going through, but I can tell you that there are at least two things you can be grateful for: being alive, and being able to be grateful. Being aware of your deep inner need to be thankful is a blessing in itself. And not everyone has that luxury, so you can start with that.
You might also find at first that you will find things in your life that you can be grateful for, but doing so you will not feel any emotion about them. You are just saying “thank you” automatically without really feeling this appreciation of what you have in your life. This situation can sometimes stem from the fact that you are giving thanks for what society is telling you to be thankful for. This is not necessarily bad, but you need to explore deeper into your soul and re-discover whatever has brought you light in the past.
What have you enjoyed doing, seeing, touching, smelling, being aware of? What are the small pleasures you have enjoyed in your life? What have you been hungry for in the past? What gave you joy in your childhood, what saved your life, or your soul? Be thankful for that, be thankful that you can remember this, that you can try and enjoy this again.
You can also try and be grateful for the joy in other people’s lives. This goes farther than being happy for your loved ones’ happiness. Seeing other people’s triumphs or blessings can be a great thing, especially when you are not very sure what could make you happy right now. At least you can be grateful for these people’s examples and you can steal some ideas for yourself, to use until you feel more empowered and your soul has awoken to what it really desires.
Whenever possible try to accompany your gratitude practice with a little bit of positive emotion. It is always better to be thankful mechanically than not doing it at all, but it will always be much better if you are thankful and you feel something positive about it. If you are able to dig a little spark of light from your past, get hold of it real strong and use this spark to accompany your work on gratitude. When you hold this little light on your hand you will see that it will gradually become easier to find other sparks buried in the depths of your soul. If you keep doing this, you will find one day that this sparks were nothing but a bright star hidden inside you, waiting to be unearthed.
So, start, just for today, a Gratitude Practice. If you can find 10 things you can be / are grateful for right now. If you find seven, that’s ok. If you find four, that’s ok too. If you find only one, remember I gave you two more, so you have three. Hold on to them with all your strength and let them be the shining light that will guide you to a life filled with gratitude and love.
Love and blessings!!