“To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.” -Albert Schweitzer
It occurred to me today that I have hit a roadblock in my positivity quest. Although I have experienced moments of deep gratitude over the last seven months in the process of seeking a positive life experience, I have not mastered any real practice of gratitude. I bought a gratitude journal but have never trained in the daily practice of writing in it. I can make a mental list in a moments notice about things in life that I have to be grateful for, but often even as I say them out loud, I feel the distance between the words and the feeling.
Felix Frankfurter, an early American Jurist once said: “Gratitude is one of the least articulate of the emotions, especially when it is deep.” I am not sure if the meaning of this reflects the fact that we all do, in fact, take so much for granted. Perhaps, I am not alone in this space between mental recognition of giving thanks and the deep, visceral experience of how gratitude makes us feel loved, worthy and whole. For me, the distance is the same as the space between a mental recognition of God and the profound sense of wonder and joy that comes from feeling God inside you.
The recognition of gratitude as the foundation for a life worth living comes through every ancient civilization. Aesop, the famed Greek fabulist, stated: “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls” and Cicero, the ancient Roman statesmen wrote: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” Yet even with this long standing recognition, there is a great deal of gratitude that goes unsaid. Like a tree that falls in a forest with no one to hear it, is gratitude real that is unshared?
Yes and no, I think. The fleeting grateful thoughts that I have that go unsaid and unrecorded do change something in me momentarily, but they do not really live in my heart and offer their magical balm until I give them away. I think one of the keys to making your soul a noble one through gratitude comes from paying attention to those thoughts. Interrupting your regularly scheduled life to stop and notice whatever is good in front of you and actually take the time to share it.
For many months at the beginning of the positivity quest, I wore a bracelet that I moved from arm to arm to remind me to stop my negative talk- with others and myself. It occurs to me that the bracelet method could be used as effectively to create more grateful thoughts as well. I have read and believe that gratitude is the highest form of thought, but like anything good in us requires practice and intention for it to work. So starting tomorrow, on day 191, I will not only start wearing a bracelet to remind me to create more grateful thoughts, I am also going to carry the empty gratitude journal with me everywhere and see if it is indeed true, that filling up a gratitude journal actually ends up filling me.