Gracious Gratitude, Doorway to the Divine

Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.

Kahlil Gibran

After three weeks of rain, cooler temperatures and lingering cloud cover, I am certain I am not alone in my swelling gratitude for the sunshine, warmth, and abundance of lush green that have graced our home these past few days. And a meditation on “gratitude” seems an appropriate way to bring to a close my time blogging for People House.

The dictionary defines gratitude as thankfulness (Merriam-Webster), yet this definition falls short of capturing our human experience of the phenomenon.  Dr. Alan Morinis, a popular lecturer on the Jewish Mussar tradition, described gratitude as, “Making something of beauty out of what we do have, incomplete as it may be.”  I love this definition as it suggests an active intention or willing participation. Gratitude may describe more of a way of being or relating to the world, a gracious attitude or experience of acceptance of what life offers and a general state of thankfulness for life: gracious gratitude.

The feeling of gratitude is very much experienced in the body and is located in the heart.  One of Untitled-1my students once wrote, “gratitude:  smiles, smiles, smiles from the heart.” I experience gratitude as a pleasant tickling sensation that begins in the heart and expands with warmth throughout the rest of my body. Gratitude also seems to have the quality of slowing time down so that one is aware or conscious of the unfolding of reality.  The experience of gratitude has the temporal quality of illuminating the present moment so that one can remember one’s connection to the larger creative process that is unfolding.  When you acknowledge gratitude, it sends forth more generosity into the world.  I am reminded of the movie Pay It Forward whose premise is that if we all perform individual acts of kindness or generosity, we may influence with our intentionality and willing action, the collective fortune of humanity. 

Gratitude is truly a doorway to the divine.

Henry Ward Beecher stated, “Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” When we delve deeper into the experience of gratitude, it takes on a transformative quality. Gratitude helps us get over our limiting self absorption; it helps us get over placing ourselves at the center of everything, and instead emphasizes the interconnectedness of all things. In this way we sense the expansion in our hearts and in our bodies.

Since gratitude reveals life as a gift, it elevates and expands our consciousness.  It connects us with respect and awe for the hugeness and beauty of life and its meaning. It may be described as a coming home or returning to a primal state of divine bliss; the realization or remembrance of our interconnectedness in the unfolding creation and our place in the loving universe. Gratitude acknowledges a connection to the divine, the world God created encompassing oneself and the community.  Being thankful can many times be humbling.  In this space all is in harmony; there is no discord or separation or alienation—only the realization of being part of this glorious creation. From a Christian perspective one might imagine that gratitude returns us to the Garden of Eden. One individual described the freedom that touches her, “when you are thankful, it releases the guilt.” 

Recognizing that life is a gift is transformative—it gives life meaning.  In its purest and highest form, gratefulness calls forth love. “It makes you feel loved and love for the world” one of my students wrote.  When gratitude is recognized or experienced, the world gives back to you an awareness that you are being given something—the world is a gift and you are loved. Johannes A. Gaertner stated, “To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.”

As a collective experience, how does the phenomenon of gratitude exist in the world today? Is it more of a challenge today to invite gratitude into our lives? 

It does not seem to go with our hectic daily lives, our self-absorption and our to-do lists.  It’s much bigger—it opens one up to generosity and interconnection and is not supported by over-identification with the ego. As one of my college students so revealingly stated, “Most people don’t stop to think that their life is great.”  It may be harder today to access gratitude in a commercialized world because in a world of profit there is never enough. We are always left wanting; the gifts go unnoticed.

As the living earth reveals humanity’s ingratitude for the life-giving sustenance we are dependent on, my hope is that we wake up to the gifts that are before us.

As Robert Sardello stated in his Meditation on Silence, “we may be shocked to notice that we had not even realized we had lost ourselves.” Gratitude exists in a dynamic relationship with the world and the movement of gratitude can deliver us from the bondage and suffocation of our attempts at control and domination.  Gratitude in present time can create a vision for tomorrow. To quote another student of mine, “Thank you goes a very long way, to a place deep in our hearts that just explodes with joy.”

We are all lacking something, and so we are all challenged to answer the question: Do we have the attitude of making something of beauty out of what we do have, incomplete as it may be?  This attitude may assist us in achieving greater fulfillment in our lives.


People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth