Spiritual Practices: Gratitude

Gratitudethankfulness, or gratefulness, from the Latin word gratus ‘pleasing, thankful’, is a feeling of appreciation felt by and/or similar positive response shown by the recipient of kindness, gifts, help, favors, or other types of generosity, towards the giver of such gifts.

The experience of gratitude has historically been a focus of several world religions. It has also been a topic of interest to ancient, medieval and modern philosophers, and continues to engage contemporary philosophers.

The Basic Practice Why This Practice May Be For You

The spiritual practice of gratitude has been called a state of mind and a way of life. But we prefer to think of it as a grammar — an underlying structure that helps us construct and make sense out of our lives. The rules of this grammar cover all our activities. Its syntax reveals a system of relationships linking us to the divine and to every other part of the creation.

To learn the grammar of gratitude, practice saying “thank you” for happy and challenging experiences, for people, animals, things, art, memories, dreams. Count your blessings, and praise God. Utter blessings, and express your appreciation to everything and everyone you encounter. By blessing, we are blessed.

The continuum of words related to gratitude go from greed and jealousy; through taking things for granted and feeling entitled; to appreciation, acceptance, and satisfaction. The practice of gratitude would be an appropriate prescription whichever one of the above describes your attitudes.

The rules of the grammar of gratitude are not as simple as they seem at first glance, however. For example, often instead of rejoicing in what we have, we greedily want something more, better, or different. We can’t be grateful because we are making comparisons and coveting other possibilities.

When this happens on a personal level, when it’s our ego that is dissatisfied, then we are ungrateful. But when we want something more, better, or different for the glory of God or for the benefit of the community, this greed may be a manifestation of our devotion, our love, or our yearning for justice. And then we are grateful for these commitments.

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