An Attitude of Gratitude

In the fall of every year, I naturally reflect on what I call an "attitude of gratitude." This is a time of year for giving thanks for all that I am and all that I have.

"Gratitude is the memory of the heart." ~ Jean Baptiste Massieu, translated from French

This time of the year, in the northern hemisphere, during abundant harvest time, giving thanks is where our collective hearts naturally turn. Harvest time and gratefulness are genetically coded in us, after centuries of harvesting from the abundance of the earth, and storing up for the winter.

In the USA, we celebrate our Thanksgiving Day at the end of November, and carry on the tradition of the Pilgrims, the early settlers fleeing persecution in Europe and suffering many hardships in the first years here. Even though they dug more graves than they probably built homes, they still set aside a day to be grateful. 

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I cannot express enough the power of positively affirming all that we can be grateful for. While giving thanks is at the core of an attitude of gratitude, this is much more than just a lip-service performance every year around the Thanksgiving holiday.

Attachment Brings Us Suffering

An attitude of gratitude is easy to maintain when our coffers are full. When the harvest is abundant and things are easily coming our way, giving thanks is routine and not so meaningful.

What happens when your harvest is not-so-abundant and things are clearly not heading your way? It's not so easy now to remain grateful, is it?

Most of human suffering, as the spiritual leaders teach us, is attachment to something that we cannot have. This includes attachment to material goods, the attachment to what we do for a living, or what we do for a hobby, the way we look, or anything by which we define ourselves.

When we don't receive or can't attain that which we are attached to, our attitude of gratitude quickly disappears. We cannot see anything that requires gratefulness because we are focused on what we don't have or what we have lost instead of what we actually do have.

This is why I believe the only way to become content with who we are and what we have is to always be grateful for those positive things in our lives. We need to be grateful for what we DO have! This needs to occur on a daily basis, not just once or twice a year.

Dusting of Snow of Fall LeavesA Dusting of Snow on the Scrub Oak Leaves

Gratitude Changes the Heart

When I find that I am feeling sorry for myself, and yes, we all do at times, if I turn my mind to an attitude of gratitude, the picture immediately changes. If I give thanks for all that I have and all that I am, a shift occurs.

I also notice if I am truly grateful in my giving thanks. Am I just giving lip-service or do I really feel it? If I really feel it, the Peace comes almost immediately and I am ashamed that I felt so selfish in the first place.

The reason the shift is so immediate when your feeling is genuine is that your heart opens instantly to others and their pain, instead of focusing on your own! It is amazing that the simple act of giving thanks has a way of doing this!

Heart Opening Exercises

In my own spiritual journey to health and healing, I do heart-opening exercises to remind me to release my own desires and be grateful for what I already have. Gratefulness truly is a memory of the heart! To hold these memories in your heart is the goal of the exercise.

A heart opening exercise can be as simple as taking a deep breath, lifting your chest and "breathing in love and thankfulness" as a positive affirmation, and exhaling out the bitterness and self-absorption!

Plus the deep breathing refocuses you and calms you down as well. I say, "I am full of Love and grateful for all that I have and all that I am," as I deeply inhale. On the exhale I say, "I release my self absorption and bitterness!"

Or I do heart-opening yoga poses to allow my body to experience the Love that is available to me and to others. 

3 Ways to be More Grateful

Make it your genuine effort to develop your own attitude of gratitude, in whatever form has meaning to you.

  1. Write your gratefulness affirmation on a note and post it on your mirror as a daily reminder until gratefulness becomes a routine element in your prayer and contemplation. State as a positive affirmation, "I am grateful for.........."(fill in your blank).
  2. Start a gratitude journal. Every night before you turn out the lights, spend just a moment writing down in your journal what you are grateful for that day. It can be as simple as, "I am grateful for the smell of fresh sheets." You will be amazed how your energy will shift and your endorphins will be immediately raised. This simple practice will not only make you feel better, it will help you sleep better too.
  3. Or show your gratefulness for all you have and all that you are, by donating your money or your time to your favorite charity. Become involved in making your community better. Your energy will shift and you will become less self focused and self-absorbed.

Abraham Lincoln said it best, when he said:

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

Giving thanks will change your heart, change your emotions, change your life and set you free. Today, may you make it your intent to set your own personal attitude of gratitude each and every day! May you create many memories of the heart!

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