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The Gifts of Gratitude (book excerpt)

By:Karem Barratt
Date: Tue,21 Oct 2014
Submitter:Rev. Karem Barratt

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Related limiting beliefs: I don't have enough/what it takes.

Once we see the reality and the possibility of where we are standing with clear, hopeful eyes, we can better chart the path we want to follow. Here is where acceptance and gratitude hold hands.
Look around you. No matter how bad things are for you now, there is someone who is having a worse time. And yet, for every bad thing that happens, there is something to be grateful for -although we perhaps cannot see it at the time. You may see gratitude as a happy-clappy-rose-tinted-glasses that denies reality; or you may see it as window cleaner which allows to see things clear after the sand storm. I choose the latter definition. A friend once told me that in Chinese the word for crisis and opportunity is the same. I believe that the Chinese are in the right track with this thinking, and gratitude is one of the attitudes that can help us see the opportunity in the crisis.

Gratitude and victimhood

Gratitude takes away from desperation and the "victim" mentality. I don't mean to underestimate the suffering of victims, but those who eventually rebuild their lives, are those who through cheer determination leave the victim mentality behind. They refuse to see themselves as helpless, stop waiting for rescuers, and start looking for the occasion to escape their victimiser, if not physically, then emotionally and spiritually. Inside the victim mentality, however, we can only live in fear and desperation. We are unable to see a patch of blue even if it's right over our heads and the more miserable we feel the more miserable we become and the more miserable we see our situation in a never-ending vicious circle of woe. We simply cannot be optimistic within this mentality, or see a way out. However, when we start being grateful for the little things, even the very miniscule ones, we start cracking that dark shell, letting in little rays of light. And where the light touches, colour and clarity follows. Beauty follows. Inner strength follows. Hope follows. And where there is hope, a whole world of potentialities begins to manifest.

Gratitude and interconnectedness

Gratitude can also save us from arrogance and pride and put in touch us to humbleness. By doing this, it helps us see how we are inter-connected to others, present, past and even future. Gratitude allows to see those helpers that have always walked with us, from the teacher who gave us a second chance by letting us rewrite a paper, to the old lady who listened to our problems while waiting for the bus, helping us unload some hurt, discontent, annoyance and confusion. I believe it was Newton who said, "I am standing on the shoulders of giants." For all his genius, he understood that if not for the hard work and observations of previous scientists and philosophers, his own work would perhaps never come to pass -or certainly it would have taken much longer to reach the level that it did.
With this interconnection in mind, we can also find inspiration in accomplished people, who started pretty much where we are right now, if not a couple of steps down, on the ladder to success, and made all the way to the top. If they can make it, why not us? Their example and lessons can serve as a shoulder to stand on, as well as our parents and ancestors and their own experiences and world views; our friends, community and times we live can also serve as support. Our life-lessons, values and beliefs. Gratitude remind us that we don't have to feel alone, living in a hostile world; but we can see the world as a generous place, full of helping people who, directly or indirectly, are giving us a push forwards.

Gratitude and empowerment

Being grateful also makes us aware of two facts: that all our struggles can have purpose and meaning, in the sense that they are a boot-camp of sorts, to help us become stronger and wiser (we will talk a bit more about this fact, later on.) And that life give us plenty of opportunities to be of help, great or small, to others and by embracing them, we become a blessing, a hero, a comfort, an inspiration to someone else. Just as we stand on the shoulders on other's people metaphorical shoulders, someone, somewhere, is standing on ours. We have a lot to offer to the world and if we see every occasion to lend a helping hand as chance to serve, on one hand, and to hone our skills on the other, we have additional reasons to grateful. For together with the "hard training" of life (and our eventual success in overcoming it) serving others give us tangible proof that we have and can develop talents and abilities to succeed. We have what it takes to create the life we dream of. And that is certainly something to be grateful for.

Gratitude and Reality

A continuous practice of gratitude is one of the most powerful things you can do to change the world, the world that matters -your world. Author Antony Robbins says that attention follows what we focus and what we focus becomes reality -an idea echoed also in many spiritualties, like the Hawaiian Huna, and esoteric beliefs, such as the Law of Attraction. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. A person that find many reasons to be grateful for during her day has to be in a better mood and hold a more promising, positive view of life that one that doesn't. Imagine you are in a bus going up a mountain on a winding, narrow road. One side of the bus all you get to see is the

dark, barren, hard rock of the mountain; on the other side, a sunny valley full of trees and farms and people weaving from their houses. No matter which side you decide to put your attention to, the bus is going to take you to your destination; there still will be a few bumps on the road, a few breakdowns, a few stubborn sheeps on the way that need to be removed. Yet your experience will be very different depending on which side of the bus you decide to concentrate on. The more often you take time to be grateful about something, the more inclined you will be to look at the sunny side of the bus, the more smiling children saying "hello" will pass your way, the more inspiring and beautiful the scenery will be. With gratitude, the more you give, the more you have, as Juliet will say (there, I got my Shakespeare quote). The more you find reasons to be grateful for, the more you realized how rich you are, how prosperous you are, how lucky you are, how blessed you are, how loved you are. And as you may know from the Law of Attraction and other esoteric wisdom, like attracts like.
So be grateful for your ceiling, with all its leaks, because it keeps your sheltered. Be grateful for your hospital bed, because with all its possible faults, you are receiving care. Be grateful for this political system we live in, because with all its flaws it is better than some alternatives, and can always be perfected. Give thanks for that glass of water you are holding, because it says that you are person rich enough to buy a glass, lucky enough to get water from a tap, and when you bought that glass, be it in a department store or charity shop, you became a blessing to someone else. Be grateful for that bird song you heard as you walked back home, or for the shy smile an old lady gave you, probably thinking you were someone else. Be grateful for that wonder that is your body, for the air on your lungs, for the brand new day that is coming, pregnant with new chances. For whatever, for everything, just say "thanks."

Open you notebook and write three things for which you truly feel grateful in this moment and why.

Now, something odd happens when you start applying gratitude to all the aspects of your life. You find that enemies (be they people, circumstances or events) are really blessings in a terrifying disguise, without which you would not be who you are today, ready to launch into an even more blessed and beautiful life. Where would Harry Potter be without Voldemort? Happy with his parents having a normal childhood, you would say. Maybe. But his parents could have died in a car crash and poor Harry would have grown up in his aunt's abusive home, without the gifts of Hogwarts. Or perhaps he would have gone to Hogwarts just the same and been an average student and then an average wizard, without the character, power and wisdom that his seven years of facing the Dark Lord bestowed upon him.

Scientists have discovered that one of the driving forces behind our evolution is the virus. Cells and viruses have been dancing a strange waltz since the beginning of life. Viruses do not reproduce as such, so the only way they have to survive is to take over healthy cells, and to this end they have developed certain strategies. Cells have learned this scheming behaviours the hard way and have adapted and changed to counter attack the viruses, who, as you may have guessed, have also adapted and changed to counter the counter attack of cells. What science is concluding is that, had the cells not been forced to change to fight off viruses, we may have ended up being totally different creatures. We may still be happy single-cell life forms somewhere in a hot spring. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, if you have any, I think it is fair to admit that in the story of viruses and cells, we can apply that saying of "bad things don't happen to you, they happen for you," providing that, like the cell, we learn, adapt and change. And for all that, I believe we have to be grateful. I, for one, would rather be a very complex human trying to figure out my existence than an apparently happy-clappy amoeba floating in a dirty pond.

You see, once you accept and become grateful for where you are right now in your life, with all its wonderful possibilities to come and all your present blessings, you realise that there is nowhere else you would rather be. How then can you hate or hold resentment for that storm, that accident, that blow, that kick, that abandonment, that tear, that shame that brought you here? Was it nice to go through all those hard experiences? No. Was it fair? Probably not. Should we hold hands with our aggressors and give them kisses on the cheek to thank them for the wonderful lessons? Maybe, one day, when we have grown spiritually enough to do it sincerely, but not yet, no. Yet, if somewhere in your heart you acknowledge your adversary as a dark teacher of sorts, and thank her or him for all the lessons offered, you come one big step closer to the next issue when it comes to clearing: forgiveness.

From A Life by Design, by Karem Barratt
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