The Power of Gratitude By, Rev. Dr. Patricia Keel

Patricia Keel Headshot 2022Our culture teaches self-reliance and independence. Thus, many of us assume that connecting to something beyond ourselves is unnecessary when we’re trying to create a successful business. But I say the opposite is true.

The more adept we become at connecting deeply inside of ourselves – tuning into all that is beyond our limited thinking – the more accelerated our path to success will be. By success I mean: We’ll be living a life of fulfillment, happiness, and joy while feeling a deep sense of meaning and purpose. From this connected state of well-being, abundant ideas and resources naturally flow to us and through us.

As a spiritual teacher, I wish everyone could set aside time to meditate daily, but I know many find it challenging. We wake up in the morning and there’s so much to do. There are emails to answer, things on our to do list, people to call and goals to accomplish. But if we just jump out of bed and dive into the DOING of the day, we miss the opportunity to fully immerse ourselves in the infinite possibilities that are available to us from a greater connection to others and to the intelligence that exists outside of ourselves.

I believe the simple practice of gratitude is one step in the direction toward making this deeper connection to our spiritual life, to our intuition and to the limitless possibilities that are all around us.

The Bad News is that gratitude is not something that comes naturally to us as human beings. If we look at our ancestors, we’ll see they were programmed to scan for what was threatening—what might harm or eat them.

This natural tendency to be on the lookout for danger is something that’s hardwired into our brains. We tend to look at what is not working in our livesThink about it. If you do something and five people tell you that you did a great job, but one person criticizes what you said or your point of view, you hone in on that one negative comment and chew on it, sometimes for days. We create a dialogue in our heads arguing with the imaginary plaintiff and defending our position in our mind. It disturbs our sleep. This basic tendency to look out for trouble means that we are not naturally inclined to be grateful—to look for the good in our lives.

Gratitude is something we need to learn.When we are little kids, we’re open to everything around us. We find joy in the simplest things—a rock, a new toy or even the box the toy came in! As we move into our teen years, we tend to put all our attention on ourselves. It’s all about ME. We don’t trust our parents, we don’t want anybody else’s opinion, we think that we know all there is to know about life and love, period. This is the natural stage of life because teenagers are trying to differentiate themselves and develop their own identities.

As we mature, we may become aware of the myriad number of people and situations that are contributing to our success in life: people who support us, opportunities that arise, insights and resources. But it’s easy to simply take these everyday experiences for granted if we continue to let life revolve around ME.

However, there comes a time for us to move beyond our self-centeredness and to not only become aware of the things outside of ourselves, but to acknowledge and offer thanks for the people and situations that have supported, and continue to support us, over the years. This is the experience we have when we become aware of the feeling of thankfulness and gratefulness.

The Good News is that while gratitude is not something that we’re born with, it is something we can cultivate, and it has great benefits to our overall health, well-being, and relationships.

Over the past 20 years there have been many research projects on gratitude. Multiple studies have been done through the John Templeton Foundation as part of the work of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. Some of the benefits they uncovered are that gratitude improves physical health, builds resilience, mitigates anxiety and strengthens relationships.Making a Heart With Hands

When one experiences gratitude, key areas of the brain are activated, specific hormones released, such as oxytocin which is released when we’re in love or when we’re feeling compassion toward another. Gratitude taps into the intelligence of the brain, but also into the intelligence of our heart.

So, if gratitude has such great benefits and is a step toward a deeper spiritual life, how do we begin to develop this experience of gratitude?

One of the best ways to develop an attitude of gratitude is to write down what you’re grateful for every day. A gratitude journal can be in a written journal, on your phone, or computer, or a notepad by your bed. The key to creating the PRACTICE of Gratitude is to stop and contemplate what you are grateful for each day. Find a time every morning or every evening before you go to bed, take a few minutes to breathe and reflect on your life. Then, write three or four things such as: people who gave you support, a situation that brought you some insight, a new awareness about yourself, the beauty in nature or the sights and sounds of that day. Start small. Gratitude grows in you.

Why would I want to take five minutes every day to cultivate gratitude?

Basically, gratitude supports our well-being and happiness in an exponential way. And when we feel that deep sense of connection beyond ourselves as we begin our day, we have a more expanded capacity to make right decisions, to see beyond our limited thinking, and to incorporate and include the guidance and wisdom of others.

 

Join me for the Spiritual Awakening Series, starting December 5th, and we’ll take another step toward building our simple spiritual tool kit. See how spiritual practices help us create a conscious impact on our well-being and success, one breath at a time.

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