A Mindset of Gratitude is a special kind of “spiritual good will.” (From Latin, Gratus which means “being thankful.”) The radical aspect of practicing Gratitude is about being appreciative for the very disease we are challenged with. Why would we give thanks for our disease? Because its presence in our body is Nature’s way of doing us a service by letting us know we are not well and that we must focus on a healing intervention. (Consider the alternative of dying instantly without any warning, or without any chance of healing and it is clear that while challenging, our disease is a gift.) To be clear, we don’t have to like the “gift” in order to be thankful for it, we simply need to accept it, bless its presence and work with it in a positive way rather than work against it, fight it or fear it. Let’s explore the three steps I’ve outlined for embracing a Mindset of Gratitude:
THE FIRST STEP OF “ACCEPTING WHAT IS”
The difference between practicing a “mindset of gratitude” and trying to maintain a “positive attitude” is that gratitude does not require feeling positive because it’s not based on emotion but rather on acceptance. We don’t need to feel positive in order to be accepting of what is, we simply need to accept it. In fact, feeling afraid or sad or angry, (or all three) is often part of the acceptance process. Whereas needing to feel “positive” about a “negative” situation can turn into a hopeless condition, one that often leads to depression; and being depressed in addition to being ill is no friend to us or to our healing process.
If we step back from the judgmental context of “positive” and “negative” and simply look at “what is,” the difference between being positive and being accepting becomes clear. Arbitrarily judging our circumstances as “good/bad,” “right/wrong” or “positive/negative” is quite natural, and yet the reality is that such judgmental conclusions are nothing more than our own self-imposed projections being cast upon life’s unbridled twists and turns. We essentially add our own spin to the un-judgmental “what-is-ness” of life. Case in point, what we might conclude as “bad” may turn out to appear to be “good” later on down the road. For example, missing one’s airplane connection may seem like a “negative,” but if our connecting plane ends up delayed on the runway for six hours it’s not such a “bad” outcome. Or the feelings of doom and self-doubt that accompany ending an unhealthy relationship, which once when we‘ve extricated ourselves from it we feel liberated and more self-confident.
THE SECOND STEP OF “GIVING OURSELVES PERMISSION” TO FEEL
So how do we practice gratitude and its basis of acceptance? By giving ourselves permission to feel exactly what we are feeling without trying to change it, make it better or “get over it.” This “pacing what is” can only occur if we are willing to open to the fear of losing control; essentially that if we allow ourselves to feel sadness we will lose ourselves in an abyss of grief and never be able to climb out of it. Nothing is farther from the truth! It’s by avoiding our sadness and pushing it down that we trap ourselves in the abyss of “de-press-ion.”
As we open to our feelings and feel them just as they are, they transform into what I call a “vehicle of grace.” This vehicle delivers us to a state of release and relief and to new found insights and awareness’s. Suddenly our emotional burden is eased and we have room, or space to “be with” whatever we are experiencing as well as whatever may come next. (If we can’t be with what is as it is, we certainly cannot be with what is next. Why? Because what is next is a natural extension of what is right now. Said another way, we cannot expect to ever get what we want if we have no capacity to accept what we’ve got.)
THE THIRD STEP OF “GIVING THANKS FOR WHAT IS JUST AS IT IS”
Practicing the acceptance of what is comes first, once we can do that, giving thanks and the power of Gratitude is more authentic and real for us. (It’s impossible to be thankful for something we have not yet accepted.) Being thankful means understanding and trusting that whatever challenges we are facing, they are there for a reason, for our upliftment and growth rather than to do us harm. While having cancer may not feel like an uplifting condition, the fact that we are aware of it and have a chance to intervene is definitely something to be grateful for.
Practicing Radical Gratitude in our everyday lives is not only essential for ensuring our well-being, it also elevates our happiness and fulfillment levels. Additionally, it helps us field the toxic energy present in our environment and sometimes expressed by those around us. In a world that can be harsh, judgmental and threatening it’s a blessing to bring a measure of peace, care and well-being into our personal space. And especially if our body is compromised, we need to be our own source of healing inspiration and our own best friend and inner healer.
A FOURTH STEP OF SHARING THE POWER OF GRATITUDE WITH OTHERS
A Mindset (and Heartset) of Gratitude can also be expanded into a more encompassing practice with those we care about and interact with in our daily lives. My personal spiritual practice is called “My Daily Bodhisattva (Sila) Vows” and they are composed of the four main intentions of Service, Kindness, Gratitude and Happiness.
- To Be of Service to others and if I cannot, to do no harm to them.
- To Live moment-by-moment in the grace of Kindness, truth and love.
- To Have deep Gratitude and thankfulness for the gift of being alive.
- To Bring Happiness, joy and fulfillment into the lives of others.
I’ve written a series of short articles that illuminate the ways of Gratitude as well as Mindsets and practices that enhance our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. I invite you to explore them here: Val Jon’s Articles