Nurturing a Consciousness of Gratitude

By Peter Bolland

… The consciousness of gratitude—that deep and abiding feeling of aliveness, well-being, serenity and joy—is a singular pleasure that transcends thought and circumstance. It is not a philosophical tenet or a theological doctrine to be debated and honed by rational discourse. It is not just another good idea to set alongside all the others. It is an experience that wells up from the ground of Being beyond the reach of the mind and its conceptual field. The consciousness of gratitude is not so much a way of thinking as it is a way of being. It is not something we achieve as much as allow. One thing's for sure. When you get one taste, you want more.

On Thanksgiving Day and throughout the holiday season a familiar ritual is repeated all over America. We go around the table and tell each other what we're thankful for. Giving thanks for the things we have is a powerful starting point, but there is an even deeper dimension to gratitude that our earnest pronouncements sometimes obscure. What if the consciousness of gratitude has nothing to do with what we have here in the outer world of forms? What if the consciousness of gratitude comes before, not after, we count our blessings?

Thanksgiving may be a uniquely American holiday, but its spiritual core, the consciousness of gratitude, is truly global. All of the world's wisdom traditions share the notion that our consciousness is the field out of which the bounty of our lives emerges.

… In unenlightened consciousness, we live perpetually in the future and in the past—anywhere but here and now. Our habitual, conditioned thought stream is characterized by fear and longing. …Our attachment to self-serving portraits of the past and the future imprisons us in the consciousness of scarcity and lack—a far cry from gratitude. It is only by awakening to this now moment that we experience release from the cycle of egoic craving and inevitable dissatisfaction. When we practice acceptance of what is, when we awaken to the infinite formlessness of the now, gratitude seeps up through the gaps between our thoughts like groundwater.

… In the 23rd Psalm, King David sings out from the depths of his God-consciousness, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.” But behind David's resounding manifesto of gratitude is a real-world pragmatism. Life is not a bowl of cherries. There are conflicts. There are challenges. ... David is undaunted. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.” David reminds us that we needn't be free of all problems in order to experience gratitude.

Like David, Jesus speaks of an undaunted intimacy with God. From the depths of his fully realized God-consciousness, he calls us to uncover our own, knowing that only from a lived experience of the inner divine presence can we properly order the details of our outer lives.

… Only in the light of God-consciousness do we experience true abundance and gratitude. … It is within us. It is to be realized through the depths of our own loving, and even through the agony of our mistakes.

… The consciousness of gratitude is logical and rational as well as devotional. And the only way to experience this depth of wisdom is by surrendering—surrendering the ego with its incessant worry, craving and attachment to its own cleverness.

… We are already one with everything. There's no need to grasp or cling to any of it. And when we let go, our eyes and our hands and our hearts are filled with an abundance beyond the wildest imaginings of our limited and limiting ego.

   … I know how to do it now. I know how to let go of the worry, the fear, the regret, the frustration. I simply breathe deeply into the core of my being the realization that I am not my thought stream, and beneath the waves of worry and fear lies an infinite sea of Being, and I Am That, and I don't have to be worried or afraid anymore. Everything is as it must be in this moment. … I can slip into the peaceful stillness of the consciousness of gratitude.

Excerpted from Unity Magazine®.