The holiday season is here as I write this, although it looks very different from previous years. As we know, the holidays are frequently accompanied by additional stress, which is exacerbated this year by the unprecedented events and shifts of 2020. Many years ago, as an antidote to holiday stress, I began a regular practice of reflecting and meditating on the nature of Gratitude. This simple practice always helps me to ground and center when holiday obligations feel overwhelming, as it reminds me of Gratitude’s place in my life. And even though I am feeling less celebratory this year, I continue to contemplate the essence of Gratitude- in meditation, daily life, and my Reiki practice. After all, Reiki and Gratitude are natural partners. When I feel the divine energy of Reiki flowing through me, how can I be anything but grateful?
Yet, we all know this year is different. My sense of Gratitude is tinged with sadness and grief for all that was lost these past months. I recognized and acknowledged this odd juxtaposition of conflicting emotions a few weeks ago as I went about my daily tasks or sat quietly in meditation. And I became aware of a persistent feeling that Gratitude itself, its essence, was pushing its way into my waking consciousness, accompanied by warm, comforting feelings of thankfulness. Of course, a large part of that was an appreciation for the obvious blessings — family, a warm home, and plentiful food, which are too often taken for granted, especially in these times of significant change and shifts when so many are lacking basic human needs.
However, even as I noted the presence of thankfulness, I was aware of Gratitude’s energy, its signature, steadily radiating from the core of my being, for no discernible reason. The radiant feeling grew and expanded as I tended to my responsibilities or sat in meditation. What was causing this feeling? Why was Gratitude so persistent and consistent? What was it telling me? The answers remained elusive, so I simply enjoyed (and was grateful for) the pure feelings of thankfulness and comfort that flowed through me as they washed away stress and heartache.
And then, a few days later, the answer arrived in meditation: Gratitude in its purest form is a living thing, an entity, and when nurtured and cultivated, it flourishes and thrives on its own. In its essence, Gratitude requires no reason for being; it just is. For it to come alive within us, however, requires a nurturing and supportive environment. Gratitude has many manifestations and interpretations. It is present in a simple, heartfelt thank-you, the soul-stirring sense of humility and oneness, and in every aspect of daily life, if we are open to experiencing it.
What does this mean for us? When we create an accepting and nurturing environment for Gratitude, it takes up permanent residence within us. In other words, when we make a home for Gratitude, Gratitude makes a home in us. The relationship becomes truly symbiotic, one in which we live in Gratitude, and Gratitude lives in us. As we do so, it enriches our lives beyond measure and reminds us of life’s sweetness and joys, even amid the inevitable difficulties and sorrows.
In truth, I am grateful for all the opportunities, lessons, blessings, challenges, and obstacles I have encountered. Yes, I even feel Gratitude for those events construed as negative because within them lie the most significant potential for spiritual growth. As I reflect upon my life so far, I realize that the darkest days ultimately led to the brightest tomorrows. What a liberating insight! When it finally sank in, that new perspective changed everything for me and re-shaped my view of life and the human experience. And, at the core of this perspective is, of course, Gratitude. It is a fundamental component of my authentic self and is a guiding light during the darkest days.
So, this is what I learned: Be grateful. Practice Gratitude, and allow its beauty to dwell within you. When we welcome Gratitude, we welcome the happiness that is our birthright.
“In daily life, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” - Brother David Steindl-Rast