I remember studying Neale Donald Walsch’s program “Living From Your Soul” several years ago, and I will always recall something he said that stood out for me: “There is a single word that changes everything and is the key to living from our soul…and that word is GRATITUDE.” Something clicked for me when I realized the value and significance of gratitude as a spiritual practice. With November being the month we typically focus our thoughts on gratitude and giving thanks, I am inspired to consider what gratitude has taught me and how it has become a valuable spiritual practice with each day.
On my spiritual educational journey, one of the things I have learned is to utilize gratitude as a tool for overcoming everyday life challenges. According to Neale Donald Walsch, learning to live in gratitude changed everything for him – and in his program he challenges everyone to do the same, to begin intentionally living in gratitude as a way of being. I accepted his challenge not realizing how empowering it would be during one of the most challenging times of my life – the murder of my son Justin in 2013. That became my most valuable lesson in gratitude and has continued to serve me with each new experience moving forward.
We have all had our share of challenges in life, even those who have achieved great success had to overcome obstacles in order to experience success. I am sure you can think of someone you know who has used a challenge to transform their lives and found the value in having had that challenge presented in their lives and could be grateful in hindsight, maybe it is you. To have used the energy of the unexpected to transform our circumstances into something better, something that makes a greater difference in the world around us; and in the act of embracing that challenge and not letting it hold us back, we have gained more than we could ever imagine. Gratitude is the result of that process, the appreciation of what we have courageously claimed.
So what I have come to realize is that when we can summon gratitude spontaneously for no reason as an act of will… it is not then a reaction to life, but a decision and a creation in the experiencing of life. Feeling an emotional response to what is happening around us will create a soul connection to the vibration of gratitude, and align us with the natural expression that values all of life’s experiences.
The truth is if we overlaid gratitude over every experience in life – every thought, response, circumstance, event…the energy shift that the attitude change produces creates future outcomes more in alignment with that newly embraced energy itself. It is setting into motion the effect for better outcome in our future events more than anything else we can do…We are setting the intention of how we will choose to respond to the same type of situation in the future - to stay living from our soul – not stepping into living from our mind.
There is a story about a 49-year-old woman around the death of her husband at age 52. It was very tragic to her as he was still so young and of course had expected to have many more years with him. But he had a terminal disease and the diagnosis was he did not have long to live. On the last day of his life, he called her into his room to tell her something very important. He said, “I am going to die today. Listen carefully and closely to what I say and remember this all your life…every morning when you lift you head up off the pillow, you have everything you need.” For only a dying man could know that. It changed the rest of her life. She counts each day as a blessing no matter what it brings, and realized that the real blessing is to be alive – the blessing in disguise we often don’t notice.
So gratitude is really a decision, just as is happiness, that declares your reality – and is under-utilized by most of us. We can reverse the feeling of suffering – gratitude turns it around. Struggle and suffering are creations of the mind – what the mind thinks about something is crucial in forming our experience. We know that in our spiritual teachings in Unity. Suffering is the result of the mind rejecting what the Soul offers…suffering is the emotional product of the decision to veer off the path of the Soul, that path of our Divine self.
The spiritual practice becomes knowing in advance that difficult challenges will happen, and that we can decide ahead of time how we will react to them before they happen – we can choose to be grateful for the opportunity to experience life and know we have all we need to move through whatever it may be. Gratitude allows us to find the good in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. Can we choose that each day? In whatever shows up?
I invite each of us to not only take time to be grateful for the blessings we have experienced this past year at Thanksgiving, but to use gratitude as a transformational tool in everyday life - by being thankful in everything life presents - welcome or not. Shift the energy around it by saying, “Thank you God, Spirit, Source” – whatever name you use to identify the creative energy of life, immediately in the situation. Say “Thank you for giving me another chance to heal my thought about______, or to change my story about _______, or to release my fears around _________.”
That is my practice, what I have learned to use to transform the most difficult time of my life and to appreciate even more the amazing blessings that have shown up unexpectedly – knowing there are more on the way! May this Thanksgiving truly be a time of deepening your practice of gratitude and perhaps in making a new or renewed commitment to begin each day claiming gratitude in advance for the blessings that day will offer. From my heart to yours, wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving holiday!
A Thanksgiving Poem to share:
Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.
It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
Also thankful for the setbacks.
GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
And they can become your blessings.
- Author Unknown