Saturday, November 17, 2007

Gratitude and Thanksgiving

















I will be away from my blog for the week before and the week following Thanksgiving, and I can't think of a better thought to leave you with over the Thanksgiving holiday than "Gratitude" by James Harvey Stout (deceased), philosopher and observer of life.

(I will be checking email, so please do leave comments if you like.)

This excerpt is one of many thoughtful and thought-provoking essays in Mr. Stout's Human Handbook, his "encyclopedia of life," available for free in its entirety on the Tools For Transformation (Trans 4 Mind) website. http://www.trans4mind.com/jamesharveystout/

I wish you a happy, abundant, and gratitude-filled Thanksgiving.

~Michelle~

Gratitude

By James Harvey Stout

What is gratitude?

  1. It is our natural response when we receive something of value. This acknowledgement occurs in various areas of life:
    • Mental. We acknowledge that we have received a valuable object. And we strive to perceive the giver of the object (although the giver might be an unknown person, or an inscrutable deity). In contrast, an ungrateful person does not acknowledge the value nor the giver. Gratitude is primarily an experience of the emotions, while the mind is experiencing "appreciation" and "significance."
    • Emotional. Gratitude is a response of happiness and warmth when we receive something of value. But the emotion does not occur only within us; we also seek to evoke that happiness with the giver -- perhaps by smiling, and saying, "Thank you."
    • Physical. It is a sense of commitment to give gifts in return. Gratitude is a bonding among fellow humans in a world where our material needs are fulfilled by one another.
    • Spiritual. Gratitude is our childlike thankfulness for the miracle of life and for the amazing capacity of life to satisfy our needs. Because we enjoy this flow of life, we are grateful for the things which we receive, and we are also grateful for opportunities to give. Gratitude does not occur simply because we gave or received a material object; instead, gratitude is ultimately based in the joy of participating in life. Thus, we can be grateful to someone even if we paid for the person's service; this gratitude is toward life itself, as it satisfies our needs through this person. In gratitude, we transcend the material transaction, to experience spirit itself.

The benefits from gratitude.

  1. Gratitude generates a pleasant sensation within us. When we are grateful, we experience happiness, fulfillment, peace of mind, and a flow of love (which is the literal "flow" of spiritual substance from us to the other person or object).
  2. Gratitude offers a means by which we can counteract unwanted psychological states, such as these states:
    • Greed and envy. Gratitude helps us to achieve emotional satisfaction in the ownership of our current possessions; gratitude is a type of "savoring." If we do not achieve emotional satisfaction with our current possessions, we futilely try to achieve that satisfaction with the mere ownership of more possessions; thus, we experience greed and envy. But we will never feel contentment with regard to our goods until we savor them, through emotional actions such as gratitude.
    • Worry and fear. Gratitude helps us to be more aware of the many gifts which we receive; therefore, we do not worry as much about the flow of gifts which will occur in the future. When we are grateful, we dwell on the present moment, and the goodness of the past, instead of the uncertainty of the future.
    • Grief. As we recognize the many gifts which we receive, we enhance our ability to release the things which have disappeared from our life, and to turn our attention to the current flow.
    • Vanity. Gratitude reminds us that we do not live alone; we survive only because we are constantly receiving goods from people, from nature, and from spirit. We experience humility as we view the awesome movement of goods into our personal world. Gratitude helps us to perceive ourselves as a part of a benevolent system. We become more conscious of the many things which we receive from other people, from nature, and from other sources. And we notice the times when we give within this system. As we pay attention to the giving and receiving, we realize that we are not alone, but rather that our lives depend on the perpetual giving of others -- and we might feel a deeper responsibility to give more of ourselves, to contribute to the process. Albert Einstein said, "A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving."
    • Depression. In depression, we have difficulty in seeing the value in the world around us. Gratitude can minimize the effect of depression by reinforcing the goodness.
    • Repression. Repression occurs when we refuse to view particular conditions because those conditions cause discomfort. In contrast, gratitude introduces a pleasant sensation into our experience, so that we allow ourselves to perceive the conditions, even though the experience is a mixture of the pleasant and the unpleasant.
  3. Gratitude helps us to see the positive value in circumstances. In unpleasant circumstances, we can be grateful for an opportunity to learn a difficult lesson, or to balance a "karmic" condition (which has been the result of the previously implanted elements in our archetypal fields). Even if we do not perceive a positive value in these circumstances, we have faith that life is ultimately good -- and we are grateful for that goodness. Many people are unhappy when they pay bills; other people are happy, because they dwell on their gratitude for the things which they have purchased.
  4. Gratitude increases the possibility that we will receive more goodness in our life. We can see this effect upon various aspects of life:
    • People. When we express gratitude in actions and words (e.g., "thank you"), people are rewarded for their generosity; thus, they are more likely to be generous again.
    • Spirit. In our expression of gratitude, there is a flow of spiritual substance from us to a person or object. Whenever we increase that flow, we increase our life in every way: more energy, more awareness of intuition, etc. Because we understand this dynamic, we can express gratitude for things which we have not yet received; we know that our gratitude helps to increase the flow (which is likely to include the thing for which we are expressing gratitude-in-advance).

Techniques of gratitude.

  1. Archetypal field-work.
    • Self-talk. For example, "I appreciate all of the good things in my life." "I enjoy thanking people for their kindness."
    • Directed imagination. We can visualize ourselves receiving valued items, and then smiling, or saying, "Thank you."
    • Energy toning. We generate the energy tones of joy, delight, pleasure, etc.
    • The "as if " principle. We act as if we are grateful when we receive items of value. The actions might include a smile, a hug, and particular words (e.g., "This is a wonderful gift!").
  2. Intuition. When we receive a valued item, intuition can guide us in our response (including the particular words). Intuition can also determine the item's value to us, in terms of its enhancement of our life.
  3. We can develop our ability to perceive the goodness in our life. Throughout our day, we are continually giving and receiving -- often without noticing these occurrences. If we decide to have an "attitude of gratitude," we become aware of more of the people and the subtle events in our life. This creative "game" can be played during stressful times, and also when we might otherwise be mentally bored -- while driving, while standing in a line, etc.
  4. We can offer gratitude in various aspects of our lives.
    • We can be grateful to many things: a person, a deity, nature, life itself.
    • We can be grateful for many things: our home, food, comforts and pleasures, well-being (material, emotional, mental), physical health, sensory delights (e.g., delicious food), friends, clothing, life itself.
  5. We can say, "Thank you," when someone gives something to us. And we can write "thank-you letters" to people. We express can gratitude for the gift, and for the person who gave us the gift.
  6. We can acknowledge holidays which are focus our attention on gratitude. For example, in the United States, the citizens celebrate Thanksgiving, and Veterans' Day (when we express gratitude to veterans who have defended the nation).
  7. We can "say grace" before we eat a meal. From a materialistic viewpoint, saying grace is illogical; we have no reason to be grateful for a meal for which we worked to earn the money -- but the idea of saying grace is to acknowledge that our own efforts might have come to fruition only because of the supplemental factor of spiritual "grace" (which is the unearned goodness in our life). We can say grace before every event, not just meals.
  8. We can make a list of things for which we are grateful. We can even have a "gratitude journal," in which we note each day's gifts.
  9. We can develop our self-esteem. We cannot feel gratitude if we do not feel that we are worthy of the gifts.
  10. We can review our unpleasant memories, to find factors for which we can be grateful. In retrospect, we might realize that the circumstances were a necessary part of our education in life.
  11. We can achieve a balance in gratitude.
    • We can be grateful for the things which we possess, while still working toward additional goals. For example, we might be grateful for a "B" grade on a difficult exam, but we still strive for an "A" grade on the next exam.
    • We can be grateful for the things which we receive, while still being discriminating. For example, we would not be very grateful if an employer pays us $1 for a full day of work. We naturally respond to the value of the object, particularly if we exerted an effort to obtain that object and we expect something of equal value. We can be objective about the objects which we receive, while still appreciating various other factors:
      • We can appreciate the attempt of the person to give what is meant to be given (even if the person's greed or other dysfunctional archetypal-field constellations block the flow of materiality and spiritual substance to us).
      • We can appreciate our opportunity to participate in life, while we (and other people) explore our intuitive perception of spirit's dynamics by which we all distribute the goodness of spirit itself in the realms of mind, emotions, and physical existence.

1 comment:

G said...

Wonderful post, as usual M! Thanks for the reminders, gratitude appears to be more complex than what it seems at first glance. I am grateful for your friendship and all the helpful information that you share with your readers.

Happy Thanksgiving to you too! G