It’s November and in the US Thanksgiving is happening this week. Kelsey, COR’s lovely client care specialist, inspired me in our monthly team meeting yesterday by encouraging us all to deepen our gratitude practice by finding gratitude in unlikely places.
She thought that while it’s beneficial to review our lives with an awareness of being grateful, what’s often on the surface are things that are generally “good” or favorable. In this week of being thankful, she encouraged us to consider what we are grateful for that we might not initially see as something to be grateful for— i.e. what might be a blessing in disguise, or how has life been setting us on a path that serves us, even if we don’t like some of the stops along the way?
I would like to expand on Kelsey’s inquiry a little. I believe there are different levels of gratitude.
Any gratitude towards anything at all is beautiful because it opens our hearts. We stretch from our usual ego’s self-absorption and scarcity to RECOGNIZE that we have received a gift. We are able to actually appreciate these gifts instead of our usual jaded or entitled attitude of taking everything for granted.
Yet, there are deeper and deeper levels of gratitude.
The first level is to be grateful for what we perceive as good and desirable.
The most accessible and obvious level of gratitude is being grateful when things go our way. We get chosen for a promotion, we find a parking spot, we ask a girl out on a date and she says yes, etc. Naturally, there is an uplift of the heart, and happiness arises when we get what we want.
The second, more difficult level is to be grateful for the ordinary, when nothing special is happening.
I might be grateful that I woke up in the morning, that I can breathe, that I have water to take a shower with, or for the leaves that are blowing in the wind. This level of gratitude invites us to take a deeper look at reality, and we have to be more awake, present and prayerful than in the first level. When we are that awake, we recognize the gift in the so-called ordinary, and we might even recognize The Giver. When our eyes are open, we see the extraordinary just underneath the ordinary, and therefore go deeper into the mystery of the everyday sacredness in each moment.
The third level, which is even deeper and is much more difficult, is finding gratitude for when things don’t go our way.
When we are grateful when something happens that disappoints us, difficulties and challenges arise, or even when there is pain and suffering. Now this level of gratitude is when the journey gets tough, and at the same time incredibly beautiful, if we can open that far. It touches our human potential and a spiritual depth of surrender that lifts us straight into the arms of the Divine.
Can I be grateful to have my buttons pushed when something a close friend, family member or spouse does trigger me? Can I see that this button is pointing me towards a place within that got wounded a long time ago and needs healing? Can I thank this person for being “kind enough” to point me towards that wounded place inside so I can find liberation from the imprisonment of my own triggers, defenses and unskillful habits?
I personally am so grateful for decades of having teachers, coaches and spiritual guides who showed me the way of undefended love and the practices that enabled me to stay much more centered and soft and loving in the midst of having my buttons pushed.
I am grateful for the people and events in my life that supported me in having my ego slowly sanded down over the years, which happened mostly when things did not go the way I wanted them to.
I am grateful that I am loved so much that no stone in my heart stays unturned. I so appreciate the Grace that orchestrates my life in a way that it all comes up at the right time. And if I don’t get it, which is very often the case, that same Grace just keeps on showing it to me and keeps on making something beautiful out of any difficult, desolate and heartbreaking situation.
True gratitude brings true humility. We recognize our human limitations and helplessness and at the same time we recognize the glorious gift of the potential we are all given. And gratitude is one of the major keys to actually fulfill that divine potential.
Now that is something to be grateful for, don’t you agree?
Wishing you and your loved ones a season full of gratitude,
Britta and the COR Team