Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Gratitude of the Heart

Okay, so we’re concentrating on being thankful…but where do we begin? Setting aside the history and mythology of the holiday, if we focus on gratitude, we need a starting point. Lots of people close their eyes and say, “Yeah, I’m thankful.” And they mean it. But in a few minutes nothing has changed. Shouldn’t gratitude come with a transformation, however small?

What if we eliminate all the material stuff—big dinners, families, jobs, new cars, even declarations of peace—whatever. “Thank you so much for the…” We’re used to saying that. But is gratitude really just thanks for stuff or events or even people? We put in an order and when the service is delivered, we say thanks? Doesn’t that feel like business as usual? What if we DON’T get what we ordered? Do we curse ourselves, our lives, our divine source? Is gratitude conditional?

Doesn’t gratitude begin with a kind of acceptance—with embracing what is? Go deep. How can we manifest wonders when we don’t begin with what is—staring it straight in the eye, no blinking, no rationalizing?

I suspect we have to begin with accepting ourselves with all our pimples and warts. If I hate to look in the mirror because the lady reflected there is aging or flabby or has a big nose, I’m accepting the myths that Wall Street sells. But what do the people around me really need from me? They need the best of me. Not the best-looking me. They need to touch the part of me that grows inside—changing as the world impacts me, learning, blossoming, healing. I need to share what my triumphs, failures, and weaknesses have taught me. I need to share my hope.

Recently, I realized I had adapted to challenging conditions by being automatically defensive. I stayed on tiptoe, ready to whirl to a safe distance in case of attack. But I was living for the attack. When I can approach the people and events around me with my heart wide open, my world goes from black-and-white to color like the original The Wizard of Oz film. Is an open heart more vulnerable? Perhaps. And perhaps being perfectly real and open is the best defense. I’ve learned this lesson before and forgot:  face the hard edges of life with the purity of gratitude for being.

Long ago, I was involved in a custody battle that was bitter and ugly. The children suffered as the arrows exchanged became ever more lethal. What to do? Our side stopped. We stopped shooting. We went on vacation to seek our lost true selves. We wept, but we didn’t give in to the toxic fumes of frustrated anger. Gradually, we gained so much power the situation changed itself.

With unworthy behavior puddling around us in the world, the best we can do is to be the contrast. Be the love you want to see—strong, honest, brave. When my husband and I were hateful, the children had no options, no healthy role models. When I’m defensive, I’m honoring the hateful ones by joining their dance. Gratitude is an open heart—no more, no less.

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