Saying For Today: Yet, as long as we nurture the seeds of gratitude for those whom we meet along the Way, we are alive and will remain so - indeed.
If the only prayer you ever pray in your life is thank you, that will be enough
*Meister Eckhart, Dominican Monk and Mystic, b. c. 1620
The late spiritual teacher, Jean Klein, said, "In our society there is only asking. Even apparent giving is asking." If this is so, or even partialy so, and it seems to be the case for much of humanity, an antidote to this craving for more and the attitude of entitlement is a heart of thanksgiving. We can apply the antidote to this virus of ingratitude. Yet, we need to be honest: "Do I truly wish to live with an attitude of gratitude?" If the answer is yes, we will need to be clear how we can veer off into the attitude of entitlement. When we do this, we lose joy, for joy only arises in receiving as a gift.
*The Ease of Being.
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Many months ago, I ordered my book as a gift for a new acquaintance. I was notified it was delivered to the person. I never received an acknowledgment of its reception from the person. I did not receive a mention of gratitude. This appeared odd to me. Such omission was foreign to the teaching of my upbringing. "Thank You" was not optional in my family. One did not reserve the right to behave as though entitled to the gift. What was - is - given is always a gift, so one respects it as such.
I learned early this "Thank You." That guidance could give me the words, but it could not give me the spirit of gratitude. Yet, appreciation is both an inner state of heart and an outer expression in action. Expressing gratitude leads to appreciation and vice versa. We become what we express, and what we express, we become. Someone could inquire, "How can I become more grateful?" A logical response is, "Express it even when not feeling it." This advice is for gratitude is first not a feeling but a posture of the heart. The feeling of thankfulness arises from thankfulness.
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Bowing to the Directions
To express reverence, gratitude, and unity with all beings (i.e., interbeing) - After 'sitting' meditation, bow to the four directions. While standing in each direction, bring the palms up and join them. The coming together of palms signifies the many being one and your oneness with all things. Also, this is a silent acknowledgment of how dependent you are on other beings, called animate and inanimate. Everything in your life comes as a gift from the communion-in-action of many beings. Stay mindfully present before moving from one direction to the next. End standing in the direction you began. Bow to complete the circle, so you have bowed five times. After this last bow, open the arms wide; make sure your hands are open and you smile. This is a posture signifying openness, welcome, and receptivity.
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Yesterday, I was leaving checkout at a store. I found it odd hearing myself say "Thank You" to the man who had served me at the checkout, for I said it before he spoke it to me. I recognized the norm is for him to say it to me, the customer, first. Yet, the gratitude was spontaneous. The expression was not calculated, so it did not arise under ego management. What arises from the heart does not ask first, "Is this the correct way?" Out of the Self arises spontaneous expression of what lives within. If appreciation lives in the heart, it will overflow from the heart. In so doing, we pour Light into the world and make it a more hospitable place for everyone.
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In 2005, I resigned from my job as a corrections chaplain. The following, an excerpt from a longer note, I wrote to the prison Warden. I wanted to express gratitude for his kindness to me, as well as that of other staff.
I will remain grateful to you each on staff here who welcomed me and supported both my work and presence here. To me, all Life is Sacred, and each place we live and work is part of that Pilgrimage, as we together pass through our days here. And we often meet for a short time, but the time leaves a lasting impression that graces the rest of our days.
A spiritual practice is looking back and giving thanks to those who have graced you with presence and kindness. This looking back includes those who have passed on as well as those still here in the body. The remembering can include nonhumans who have blessed you, like plants or animals.
Such beings remind you there are intimacies in spirit that remain for you to explore. They invite you to inquire afresh, "What is this we call love?"
Nonhuman beings can call forth from us the question, "Is it possible to love a plant?" And, "Is the love for an animal the same as for a human?" Another question we might wish to contemplate is, "May I express love to beings who have moved on from the body they were in when I knew them?"
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For some among us, we offer thanksgiving for others to our god. An example in the Christian Bible is Philippians 1.4 (NLT), "Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God." Here, giving thanks in prayer is the overflowing from the apostle Paul's love for the Philippian Christians. In verse 7, he writes, "So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart." And, in verse 8, he writes, "God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus."
While gratitude to one's god does not replace showing appreciation directly to others, such is meaningful worship. This ritual, as when directly to others, nurtures the seeds of thankfulness in our store consciousness - the aspect of consciousness, below awareness, where the potentials, like seeds, of good and harm reside. In giving gratitude in prayer, we become more appreciative and more likely to show it to others in word and act.
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While expressing gratitude to another is often experienced as to an object - the other - this can shift consciousness wherein we experience the object dissolved back into unitive awareness. That is, as the object arises from interbeing, it returns there. Yet, subject-object is a way Spirit moves in this realm. Fundamentally, to give appreciation to another is to give it to the other and oneself as the one Self. Hence, theistically, to show gratitude to anything is to give it to one's god. That is, gratitude is to the whole through a single one. So, we need to celebrate how Life blesses us through particular beings. We need to practice making gratitude specific in expressing appreciation to those who are means of Grace in our lives. In thanksgiving, we unite the whole and the specific, but we do not lose either.
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Someone asked me about my frequent use of "Thank You." I often conclude emails with those words. To me, "Thank You" means what it says, so "Thank You" needs no explanation. "Thank You" is a way we do not take for granted those who have and do bless our lives. If we lose the "Thank You," spoken or unspoken, we are as good as dead even if walking and breathing. Yet, as long as we nurture the seeds of gratitude for those whom we meet along the Way, we are alive and will remain so - indeed.
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How do we express this gratitude? Speaking thankfulness is one way. Yet, the entirety of a relationship, and all we do for the other, can be a "Thank You."
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book consists of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.