Gratitude Is. . . .
a tricky word.
I looked it up in several dictionaries and made a surprising discovery. Every definition stated that gratitude is thankfulness for something one doesn't deserve.
This made me imagine the following scenario:
Someone gives me a thousand dollars. I look at the cash and ask, "Why?"
She shrugs. "No special reason. I just felt like giving it to you."
I ask, "Do I have to pay it back?" She says, "No, it's a gift."
Because I want to make sure I understand, I ask, "Are you sure you can spare it?"
She says, "I'm sure."
I say, "Thanks!" and go on my way.
I feel really good about this unexpected windfall, this out-of-the blue-sky, no-strings-attached gift. The more I think about it, the better I feel. This could be the beginning of a new life, one in which miracles occur on a regular basis.
But am I sure about this? I feel an annoying doubt. Why did she give the money to me? There's a catch; I'd better find out what it is.
As if in answer to my fears, I meet someone and tell him what happened. "Wow, that's great," he says, "to get something like that when you don't deserve it."
"Deserve it?" I knew there was a catch.
"Well, did you do anything to earn it? Did you work? Did you help that person out? Did you do anything at all to entitle yourself to one thousand dollars?"
"No," I say slowly.
"Then you didn't deserve it."
I continue on my way, my good mood crumbling as I think about how I don't deserve this unexpected gift. The money, instead of lifting me up, now weighs me down, reminding me, with every rustle of crisp bills, of my unworthiness.
Not only am I depressed, I'm resentful. It would have been better not to get the gift at all than to feel so undeserving. It seems I can only do two things with it: pay it back to discharge my feeling of obligation and unworthiness, or spend it as fast as I can, so that I won't be reminded of the bad feeling I have now.
The above isn't as much an exaggeration as it may seem. Lots of people don't want anything they didn't earn. Their rationale is that they don't want to be obliged or beholden to someone else. They may also feel, as I did in my imaginary scenario, that something one doesn't have a "right" to possess because of hard work can be taken back as randomly as it was given.
I've known people who inherited or in some "unearned" way acquired large sums of money who gave it away as fast as they could. They didn't feel that they deserved it.
Many people believe they must work very hard to get money. They choose careers that will provide wealth. It doesn't matter if they enjoy their work; in fact, the less they enjoy it, the more deserving they feel of their weekly paycheck. Some day, when they have enough, they'll retire and enjoy their hard-earned prosperity.
It isn't only about money. Many people work very hard to earn health. An imaginary health devotee named Jill constructs an ambitious exercise program, one designed to be aerobic, burn calories, and put every muscle of her body into top shape.
So far, she's doing fine, but she gets into trouble, once she launches her plan. She doesn't especially like the exercise she does; it's boring, and it hurts. However, if she misses a day, she feels guilty.
Jill's problem is that she thinks she has to earn good health through suffering. That will make her worthy.
Have you ever heard people comment on someone who's lived into his nineties, eating red meat and mega-cholesterol meals, drinking, smoking—and maybe not even doing aerobic exercise? His observers may not outright say he doesn't deserve his good health, but be assured they're thinking it. "He should be grateful," they may mutter.
Some people also misapply spiritual principle, especially when they're beginning to practice them. I used to be a prime example of this. I visualized, said affirmations, and imagined unlimited blessings rolling into my life. I constructed vibrationally perfect altars with the appropriate symbols of abundance. I felt like a failure when I thought a negative thought. I worked hard at those principles, and I hoped that the great giver of good things had noticed my efforts.
Technically speaking, the dictionary writers are correct in noticing that good things happen to people for which they didn't work hard or suffer. However, that doesn't mean that the dictionary definitions of gratitude are accurate.
I decided to tackle the issue from a different perspective. Having studied Latin in my younger days, I remembered that the Latin root of gratitude was "gratia," which means grace.
So I looked up "grace," and the online Merriam-Webster dictionary (at www.m-w.com)came through with the following:
The word comes from the Latin gratia, meaning favor, charm, thanks, from gratus, meaning pleasing, grateful; akin to Sanskrit grnAti: "he praises."
I especially like the phrase, "he praises." Praise that's heartfelt honors both the giver and the receiver, in the spirit of the Sanskrit greeting, "namaste." It opens one, calling forth a stream of life source energy.
In contrast, the philosophy of earning shows that trying to earn worthiness is about as useless as trying to earn love. You can never earn enough to make you satisfied, because when you're weighing every action for its love or worthiness potential, you'll discover more actions or thoughts worthy of demerits than of praise.
It's an exhausting and emotionally cramping way to live. It causes energy blockages, which up the negative ante. Most of all, it's unnecessary. If the energy of the universe is that of unconditional love, (which we may safely assume, also means unconditional approval of your existence), you don't have to earn it, i.e., you don't need to create conditions for how you receive it.
Seth, the nonphysical being channeled by the late Jane Roberts, expressed this powerfully.
"The state of grace is a condition in which all growth is effortless, a transparent, joyful acquiescence that is a ground requirement of all existence. . . . You were born into a state of grace, therefore. It is impossible for you to leave it. . . . You share this blessing with the animals and all other living things. You cannot "fall out of" grace; nor can it be taken from you." (from The Nature of Personal Reality, by Jane Roberts)
The state of grace is unconditional. You don't, for example, get a blue sky, or a sunny day, or the sight of a newborn fawn, or a rainbow because you were good. These are the gifts of the universe, freely bestowed.
Gratitude, then, isn't saying, "Thank you for this thing I didn't deserve." It's a way of paying attention to and acknowledging life's blessings. This trains your focus so that you notice even more beautiful things.
When you become more observant, you also create a vibration that says, "I expect to experience things I like."
And you will. and you will.
Consider these quotations:
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. --Meister Eckhart
I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. --Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy. --Albert Clarke
As I conclude this, I am noticing three hawks soaring in the sky in a graceful dance. I also notice how hawks don't think they have to go through major effort in wing flapping to fly. They accept the freely given gift of the thermals and glide along with ease.
With a little practice, so can we all.
Quartz is often considered the mirror of the soul. It reflects back to ourselves our deepest and truest natures. When we work with it in meditation, it connects us to the universal life (or love) source.
The notions of hard work and suffering fit in well with emotional rigidity. A stiff upper lip may also produce stiff necks, shoulders, and backs. Green calcite helps to release mental and emotional rigidity, helping to give us a more flexible and flowing attitude towards accomplishment.
Chrysocolla is one of the loveliest crystals in terms of helping us create a receptive attitude. A stone that can be used for the heart, throat, and third eye, it helps to blend emotion, expression, and intuitive knowing.
The wise cat, whether large or small, isn't looking for praise in response to its hard work. It goes where the prey is and doesn't pounce for the sake of showing how it exerts itself. It pounces when the time is right. Patience and timing are the lessons of tiger's eye.
Sometimes we resent those who seem to have it easy. Willow (Bach) teaches us to relax about the success of others and to know that the good things of life are unlimited.
Rock Water (Bach) is the essence closest to green calcite in energy. It is for those who believe there's only one way to do things and that any deviation from routine or discipline may be fatal.
Oak (Bach) people carry not only their own burdens but those of as many others as possible. They are good people. They aren't always happy, and Oak helps them learn how to lighten their load.
Like the cats, most animals know how to have a good time. Three outstanding players are Dolphin, Otter, Hummingbird, and the Wild Earth Animal Essences of the same name can bring lightness to your own step.