Thanksgiving is the time of year when we more consciously express intentional gratitude. Of course, we should be routinely doing this throughout the year. But, there is something about the month of November and the approaching holiday season that really gets us in the mood for gratitude. More than at any other time of the year, the holiday season causes us to take stock of the reasons to be grateful in our lives. Many of us use the season to formally, and publicly, declare our gratitudes. After all, giving thanks for the blessings in our lives is pretty much the reason for the season.
But, why do we so often wait for the Thanksgiving season to begin counting our blessings? Given the many tangible benefits that an attitude of gratitude brings to our lives, expressing everyday gratitude should be a way of life, not just something we trot out when the holiday season approaches. To reap the full benefit of its creative power in our lives, we must cultivate the energy of gratitude as a matter of routine in our daily experience. Instead of waiting until the holidays to make a grand collective gesture, it would be much more beneficial to express gratitude in our every day lives throughout the year.
What Exactly is Gratitude Anyway?
When attempting to describe something in writing, I often start by turning to the dictionary to see how that something is defined, or described. Looking up the word “gratitude,” you will find two basic definitions. The first defines it as a “quality of being thankful.” Well, okay. But, that is about the most generic definition possible. It’s like describing how a banana tastes by saying it tastes like a banana. It states the obvious, but doesn’t bring the divine idea of gratitude to full bloom. The second definition for gratitude describes it as a “readiness to show appreciation for or to return a kindness.” It’s almost as generic as the first, but begins to hint at a more dynamic creative energy underlying the expression of gratitude.
The key to harvesting the full measure of gratitude’s power lies in the word “readiness” that begins this second definition. To maintain a state of “readiness,” we must cultivate a proactive predisposition to express gratitude at any given moment. We harness the true power of gratitude by always being ready to experience and express it in the eternal present moment of right now. If we wait until after the moment has arrived to get ready, we will forever be expressing our gratitude in the rear view mirror, so to speak. Practicing gratitude as a way of walking through this life requires that we cultivate and maintain an ever ready consciousness of gratitude on a day in, day out basis throughout the year.
Gratitude is Love in Action
To be in a state of “readiness” implies a proactive predisposition in consciousness to be grateful as a way of life. Achieving this “readiness” in consciousness evidences an inner commitment to put in the necessary time and energy to make a habit of being grateful. However, the real commitment we have made is not to gratitude, but rather to expressing the love that inspires the experience of gratitude.
Lesson 195 in A Course In Miracles teaches that “Love is the way I walk in gratitude.” It is through the expression of “love” that I am able to “walk in gratitude.” Love is the cause. The experience or expression of gratitude is the effect. Gratitude doesn’t just go hand in hand with love. Without love, gratitude is not possible. In this sense, gratitude is, quite literally, love in action.
With Love, Gratitude Is Inevitable
As a “quality of consciousness,” gratitude is impossible for us to experience without expressing the creative power of love. There is no way to bypass love and still experience gratitude. In this way, cultivating a readiness to express or experience gratitude is really cultivating a readiness to express love. A Course In Miracles teaches that we are always choosing between love and fear. In truth, this is the only choice we are ever making. It is altogether impossible to experience gratitude while choosing from fear. The same is also true for the powerful energies of compassion, forgiveness, joy and peace. Without love, none of these are possible.
So, while the idea of an annual holiday season of thanksgiving and gratitude is a good one, to actually wait until Thanksgiving to express or experience gratitude is the equivalent of waiting for the holidays to be ready to express love. That idea, of course, seems ridiculous in this context. We would never make it through the year to Thanksgiving if we only expressed our love once a year. Expressing gratitude as the way we walk is the result of a readiness to love every single day. So, this holiday season, I encourage you to take a close look at your own ideas and attitudes around gratitude, remembering that without love, gratitude is impossible. However, with love, gratitude is inevitable.