The unexpected power of gratitude

In today’s fast moving world, qualities such as gratitude seem to belong to another age – a simpler time when life moved along at an easier pace and there was time to appreciate everything. Yet within this apparently meek sounding quality there lies a tremendous source of power that can radically reshape the way you look at the world.

What gratitude can do for us:

  • Puts things in perspective: Human beings have this self-defeating propensity to let the bad things in life fill our mental vision and leave no room for the good, a tendency reflected and perpetuated by television and newspapers. Often it takes just one bad thing to happen for us dwell on it and get depressed, no matter how many good things that are happening. In cultivating a daily practice of gratitude, we start to reverse that process and gain a true perspective on life.
  • Lifts us above the ebbs and tides of life: The more you develop the quality of gratitude in your life, you will start feeling grateful even when bad things happen to you, because you will have developed the inner vision to see that good things and bad happenings are nothing but experiences to shape you and make you stronger. Hence you will be able to have piece of mind no matter what the outer circumstances are.
  • Takes us out of our limited ego: As with other practices of self-discovery, your awareness expands and you gradually feel you are part of something much more infinite than your limiting ego and finite mortal frame. Gratitude helps us turn away from self-centredness and realise our place in the universe.
  • Awakens a higher part of our being: Gratitude is primarily a quality felt by the heart centre, that place in the middle of our chest where we can feel our soul, or the essence of our existence. Therefore, when we are consciously grateful, some inmost part of ourselves is awakened and we enter into the higher and nobler realms of our being.

Techniques to cultivate the quality of gratitude:

There are many different techniques to use; the important thing is that they be practised every day, preferably at the same time each day so you can form a habit. Just after you get up in the morning is usually the best time – you aren’t likely to be disturbed, and the peace and serenity you get from the practice benefits you throughout your whole day.

  • Writing down things you are grateful for: This serves as a useful beginning to the other techniques. Each day you can write down seven things that you are truly grateful for, and as you write try to feel that quality inside your heart. When you start writing, you realise how many things there are – from the big things such as the gift of life and friends down to tiny little incidents that happened yesterday such as someone giving you a smile or the chance to spend a few minutes sitting in a park.
  • Expanding the flower of gratitude inside your heart: you can try silently chanting the word gratitude over and over again. Each time you repeat the word you can feel that a tiny flower of gratitude inside your heart is growing and growing, expanding petal by petal.
  • Cultivating inner joy: Joy carries with it the quality of expansion and awareness which gives rise to gratitude. Try breathing in and out and keeping your awareness on the river of breath entering and leaving your body. Feel that when you breathe in, pure inner joy in entering into your heart, and when you breathe out, worry tension and stress are leaving your system.
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30 thoughts on “The unexpected power of gratitude”

  1. One thing that is often very difficult to describe to those who have not experienced it… is that at some point in our experience with gratitude, we become and live in a state of gratitude.

    I’ve had this experience a few times in my life – where it didn’t matter what was happening to me, it didn’t matter what I was thinking or feeling, there was a state of gratitude underneath it all.

    I wasn’t grateful “for” something. I was just grateful.

    I do believe that if more people were able to have that experience, the world would be a very different place.

  2. I agree with Chris that gratitude can be an experience that isn’t tied to having something specific happen to us. It just is a deep feeling of being blessed, a state of grace.

    I try to say “thank you” when anything good happens. And I especially say “thank you” when anything happens that is annoying or challenging – those are often the greatest opportunities for growth and learning.

    Blessings,
    Andrea

  3. I notice when I show genuine Gratitude for somthing or somebody…that I do the best thing I can do and that is get out of myself and get out of my own way…..

  4. Thanks guys for the comments, they reminded me of something my meditation teacher, Sri Chinmoy once said about gratitude being something that you became rather than showed, a ‘state of grace’ as Andrea nicely put it:

    “We do not actually show gratitude; we become gratitude. Gratitude is not a matter of showing. Here I have a finger and I can show it. No, it is not like that. The moment we want to show gratitude, we take away the sweetness, the real wealth, the real secret or real power, the very raison d’Ä™tre of gratitude. So gratitude we don’t show; we don’t even express it. Gratitude is something that we grow into, we become.” (from the book Sri Chinmoy Speaks, pt 8)

    I think the beautiful thing about this state – and this is something all three of you touched on – is that when you are in it, you are in the flow, conscously soaking in the myriad blessings life showers on us every day, naturally ‘doing the best thing you can do’ (thanks Bill!) – life just becomes so much simpler and more enjoyable!

  5. I am thankful for gratitude.

    A long time ago when I was first hitchhiking the highways, I would get depressed. People drove by, rejecting me. They would even reach over and lock their passenger door as if I could reach out and open it while they were racing past at 55 MPH (this was a long time ago).

    I didn’t know how to feel any better. My instincts saved me though. I would call my mom. She didn’t do anything for me except cheer me up but invariably, my luck would improve after the call.

    Eventually I realized that it was the cheering up part that mattered and began to consciously express gratitude. I would chant to myself, “Thank you for this day lord. Thank you for this day. This healing, this healing, this healing day…” and change it to food, beauty, or whatever I happened to notice.

    From that day, and it was an epiphany of a moment on a highway in West Texas, I was rewarded for my gratitude. I lived on grace for years. I only accepted my existence as beautiful. I did not work, ask, beg, borrow, or steal… and I never went hungry. I considered my newfound ease at meeting my needs to be nothing less than a “cosmic paycheck”. I felt like I had discovered a primary purpose to our existence, that we notice beauty and thereby create beauty.

    Now I teach my homeless and destitute acquaintances to do the same. It works flawlessly to improve their lives. If they begin the day gratefully and feel gratitude for all, it improves their mood. The improved mood encourages more fruitful interactions, they become better company. As a result, the people they interact with find it easier to care about them.

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  7. Thank you for this post on gratitude. I have found my life gets exponentially better the more I am in gratitude. It is next to impossible to be in fear while practicing this simple exercise, to remain grateful.

  8. Thank you! This was a wonderful read about gratitude. I particularly enjoyed the second bullet point on what gratitude can do for you.

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