by Ross Bishop
If you are looking for a powerful spiritual transformation, you might consider making a practice of gratitude part of your daily routine. Want to be more compassionate? Work on gratitude. Want more inner peace? Practice gratitude. Want more patience? Get into gratitude. Practicing gratitude will make you feel better, be happier, more connected to others, be less depressed, and improve your relationships.
Gratitude changes the lens through which you view life. It pulls you out of the morass of your daily ego struggles and reminds you of how much you are loved and supported. It also helps protect you from the destructive influences of envy, resentment, greed and bitterness.
To start out, the best way to experience the power of gratitude is to keep a daily “Gratitude Journal.” Each day, (I find mornings work best), log at least five blessings and why you are grateful for them. Doing this daily is important, and it is best if you write it out longhand. (I know, the computer is easier, but when something is written out, you retain it better.) This takes a little time, but I find that the investment in taking a few minutes pays off considerably by putting me in a better frame of mind for the whole rest of the day.
Doing a gratitude journal keeps you in touch with the many things in our lives that we appreciate but that get ignored in the hurry and tumult of daily existence. Keeping a journal pulls you out of your routine, if only for a few minutes. It helps remind you of why you are here and of all the good things that are so easy to otherwise take for granted.
A practice that my Native American friends taught me is when arising to face the East and give thanks for the morning sun and for the blessings the new day holds. It only takes a minute, but it can really make a difference in your day! Stepping out into nature makes this even more powerful. Then in the evening, as the sun sets, face the West and take another moment to give thanks for the day and the many blessings you have received. These do not have to be elaborate ceremonies; your intention is what is important.
Eventually your gratitude practice will become integrated into your thinking that it will become a part of your daily routine. You will find yourself being grateful for things as they happen and expressing your thanks for them in real time.
There is a side benefit to gratitude journaling that usually comes as something of a surprise. As you journal, pay attention to every thought that comes up. Don’t edit anything out, because a very interesting thing is about to happen.
In addition to putting you in touch with the things you appreciate, the process almost magically, but powerfully, brings up an awareness of your woundedness. If you will allow it, it will surface your frustrations right along with the things you are thankful for. We are not doing it for this reason, but it can be a really significant benefit.
Your frustrations may surface rather starkly, so be prepared. Even the purest of hearts it seems, are not above “cusswords” when it comes to the Gratitude Journal. For example, you’ll be writing about your gratitude for your partner and seemingly out of thin air, the resentments you hold toward them will surface.
Now it is really a good thing to get those feelings out in the open, and not hiding away in your private cesspool. Out in the open they can be acknowledged and addressed. It’s like the Gratitude Journal opens a door that you would otherwise keep closed.
I recall in one workshop a woman was writing about her sincere gratitude for her children, and immediately the thought came, “Those noisy little bastards!” Underneath her reaction was her own hurt inner child who became angry every time her real children got to act out but she was forbidden to express what she felt. Although disconcerting, this awareness provided an opportunity for this woman to resolve fears that had held her back for years.
If you have trouble with the Journal or if you start one and quit, look into your resistance. As with meditation, this tells us that your unresolved inner issues are interfering – and winning! This “failure” is a warning that something inside needs attention. In Journey to Enlightenment I discuss how to use the shamanic journey process to work with and resolve the issues that the Gratitude Journal process surfaces. So although the journaling process can be bumpy, especially at first, one thing I can tell you is that it has been deeply enriching for those who have stayed with it.
To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant,
to enact gratitude is generous and noble,
but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.
Johannes A. Gaertner
(From my new book Finding Inner Peace, to be released this spring.)
copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2019