Musings on Gratitude by Peggy Smith
Gratitude, the 7th Sense
I recently saw a program where Bishop Desmond Tutu spoke to a group of inmates. As I listened, I knew in an instant he was filled with grace and genuinely grateful to be there in that time and place. His compassionately charged words filled the auditorium like liquid prayer. “God loves you” he said and then he said it again and again. As the camera scanned the faces of those in the audience I could see that there was something phenomenal happening to many of them. I cannot say what went through each person’s mind at that moment but in the interviews afterward every single person said how grateful they were to have been there.
While watching this event I remembered thinking how amazing the group reaction appeared to be. We all know that sometime, somewhere most of these people had heard “God loves you,” but this time you could see they were moved by these words and maybe even felt it to be true. In that moment a master of gratitude had initialized an opportunity for everyone in the room to feel what it is to be full of grace; to be full of acceptance and self love.
It is through examples like this one that we can begin to understand the art and power of true Gratitude. Gratitude is a choice. When we speak of the power of choice in our lives it seems to tie into our gift of free will and even will power. We use will power everyday in our attempts to break bad habits or more simply, to make better choices. Free will can help us to live a better life if we use it to help us learn to practice better habits for health and well being.
Like all attempts to willfully grasp a new skill, choosing gratitude will take time to become a new habit of awareness. Begin by setting an intention to observe, without over thinking, things that touch your heart so deeply that you notice a physical shift in your body. For me, I noticed that a warm wave of energy consumed my heart and radiated throughout my body when I found delight or joy in a life experience. I came to understand that this reaction was me FEELING gratitude. In time, I moved from witnessing my reactions to allowing each encounter with Gratitude to become a natural part of my being. I practiced this until it became as automatic as breathing.
The question is not, what are you grateful for but what makes you feel glad to be alive? What fills you with a sense of grace?
The skill of feeling gratitude can become a very powerful tool of choice. The idea that no matter how bad things get, you can always find something or someone in worse shape is suppose to inspire you to be grateful. This idea is a temporary diversion. It does not work to be grateful for not being in a worse situation. Doesn’t’ it seem like a better idea to choose how you can find insight from where you are and be improved by having the experience? Once you have learned to tap into your eternal source of love and acceptance you can always restore your balance and make better choices no matter what life brings you.
Eventually each time things appeared to become hopeless, stressful or frustrating, I acknowledged and honored the reality of my situation. And then I gently asked my body to allow me to feel gratitude. I did not ask for a reason to be grateful. When you have integrated the feeling of gratitude into your senses it is always present and spontaneously allows you to choose clarity, peace and graciousness. This can become a natural response because, over time, your body will automatically remind you what gratitude feels like.
From gratitude you can move forward toward resolution. You begin to know, unconditionally, that the gift of being alive is filled with opportunities to be full of grace. Imagine a world that has shifted from fear and avarice to love and acceptance because we evolved a natural sense of gratitude. If intuition is the 6th sense then is it possible that FEELING gratitude is the 7th?