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The Healing Power of Gratitude

A holiday of thanksgiving is a common practice around the world today, and dates back to celebrations in ancient Greece and China. Since this is November, when the holiday of Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated in the United States, I thought it would be interesting to look at some quotes related to the quality of being thankful.

A common theme that we find is that the act of being grateful benefits the person who feels it. By acknowledging the gifts we’ve been given we deepen our connection with the great forces of life that have provided us with so much. And being grateful helps us to see the ultimate goodness for our higher transformation in events that may be unwanted at the time.

When all we think about is what we’re doing and what we want, we’re isolated and ultimately nothing satisfies us. When we stop our mindless attempts to fill ourselves, look around, and realize the bounty that has always been waiting for us, our hearts open, making room for even more of these blessings. We are humbled by our former ingratitude, and become even more grateful for a universe that always welcomes us with open arms when we reach out to it.

Here are some quotes from across the ages that foster the development of gratitude as a means to heal the heart and soul…

Sharing in the divine fullness is such that it makes whoever achieves it ever greater, more illimitable, so as never to cease growing. Because the spring of all reality flows ceaselessly, the being of anyone who shares in it is increased in grandeur by all that springs up within, so that the capacity for receiving grows along with the abundance of good gifts received.
Gregory Of Nyssa (395 B.C.E.)

Saint Basil the Great (329 – 379)

Do not despair or cast aside every good hope because your present state is quite unenviable. Rather, turn your thoughts to the blessings already granted you by God and to those reserved by promise for the future.
Basil The Great (330)

God’s divinity comes of my humility, and this may be demonstrated as follows. It is God’s peculiar property to give; but he cannot give unless something is prepared to receive his gifts. If, then, I prepare my humility to receive what he gives, by my humility I make God a giver. Since it is his nature to give, I am merely giving God what is already his own. It is like a rich man who wants to be a giver but must first find a taker, since without a taker he cannot be a giver. Similarly, if God is to be a giver, he must first find a taker, but no one may be a taker of God’s gifts except by his humility. Therefore, if God is to exercise his divine property by his gifts, he well may need my humility; for apart from humility he can give me nothing — without it I am not prepared to receive his gift. That is why it is true that by humility I give divinity to God.
Meister Eckhart (1260)

Life is so generous a giver. But we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there. The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts. Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering, that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it; that is all! But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together, wending through unknown country home.
Fra Giovanni Giocondo (1435)

Thou that has given so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart.
Not thankful when it please me,
As if thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart whose very pulse
May be thy praise.
George Herbert (1593)

Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.
Native American Saying

Find a Gratitude That’s Real

To feel gratitude is a gift. By contrast, we all know the pain of those moments when we don’t feel gratitude for anything. But neither hating ourselves for not being grateful, nor pretending to be grateful, will resolve the issue.

So we start by seeing ourselves as honestly as we can. By seeing the state we’ve brought ourselves to with all our wishing, and judging, and demanding. Only then can we realize, just as Scrooge did in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, that we wouldn’t be shown these things if there wasn’t a possibility for us to change. We understand that it is something higher than our present state that is seeing for us. And it is seeing not to punish us, but to help us be transformed into a more whole, more fulfilled person. Seeing this is the beginning of real humility, and genuine gratitude.

Do you have a quote from your own tradition that is about the importance and the healing power in gratitude? If so, please click here to submit it to the OneJourney Living Book.

Best wishes,

Dr. Ellen Dickstein
The OneJourney Project