It’s almost Thanksgiving again. Time for the G-word. Yes, Gratitude.
Gratitude is a beautiful spiritual practice that can quickly shift your perspective from a place of victimhood, despair, and anger to one of appreciation, contentment, and serenity. It can allow you to more deeply receive the blessings that are already present, and in so doing manifest more abundance.
But if you are experiencing a crisis, a tragedy, or living amidst chaos, jumping too quickly to gratitude can be inauthentic, a spiritual bypass that avoids the necessary step of feeling your emotions and holding them in compassion. Sometimes others will try to move you too quickly to gratitude because they cannot hold their own pain, and therefore are uncomfortable around yours.
If you’ve found yourself unable to genuinely feel gratitude in spite of your blessings, or feel downright anger at the suggestion that you “should” feel grateful, that may be the clue that there is a step that needs to be taken before gratitude can arise.
I’m not implying you have a free pass to spew cruelty and hatred on others, or wallow in self-pity and victimhood. But I would invite you to slow down, to view your circumstances from the perspective of your soul’s journey, and explore the spiritual meaning of the crisis you are experiencing. It is an opportunity to shift from the hard pain of resistance, defense, reactivity, and dualistic thinking, and surrender to the soft pain that is vulnerable, transformative, and healing.
Our Thanksgiving Holiday remembers the Pilgrims, the courageous souls who embarked on a difficult journey to a strange land in search of spiritual freedom. They encountered illness, scarcity, and harsh conditions both on the voyage across the sea and once they arrived in the new land. Amidst this challenging time, they found support and sustenance in the friendship and generosity of their Native American neighbors. This culminated in a joyous celebration of gratitude with the bounty of their first harvest.
Often crisis, struggle, and hardship come before the gratitude. In order to steer our ship through stormy waters, it is usually helpful–and often necessary–to allow ourselves to be witnessed, acknowledged, and supported in the truth of who we are and what we are feeling right now. This is the true meaning of being “In the Now.” If in the now we are angry instead of grateful, we feel the anger. If we are afraid, we feel the fear. If we are in illusion, we bring awareness to the illusion. But we don’t try to be someone or somewhere we are not.
Allowing yourself to receive the support of others during a crisis can be a gateway to gratitude, a bridge to the blessings, an opening to deeper insight.
In the spiritual journey of your life, where are you today? Are you still on the boat, sailing across the sea amidst the storm, looking for that safe harbor? Have you arrived in a strange land, and encountered difficult challenges? Have you allowed yourself to receive the support and encouragement of those you have met along your journey? Or have you emerged from the labor of your challenges stronger and wiser, and ready to gather around the table with loved ones in gratitude?
Wherever you are, each step is necessary along the way.
From Pathwork Lecture 150:
“No matter where you are, my friends, no matter what your current condition or circumstances are, no matter how you feel, if the now is thoroughly faced, not run away from, it yields a wealth of beautiful energy, life substance, and joyfulness.”
I have encountered several periods of my life that presented crisis, chaos, and challenges. I have known many days when Gratitude was a perspective I just couldn’t even begin to embody.
Today I am grateful for each and every person that helped me to “face the now” by acknowledging my anger, comforting me in my grief, holding me in my terror. I am grateful for all those who guided me to see the deeper spiritual meaning underneath the surface level of reality. They held the deeper faith that I would eventually come to know.
They created a gateway for me to a life rich with meaning and fulfillment.