Thursday, 21 January 2016

Levels of Gratitude

Today I share different levels or types of Gratitude...

When we were young, most of us learned to practice gratitude as if it were a chore. We were prodded to say thank you regularly and encouraged to write notes of appreciation for gifts received. And some of us were required to recite rote prayers of gratitude before meals and at bedtime.

For most of us, as we matured, our periodic heartfelt expressions of gratitude replaced the dutiful, ritualized practices of our youth. Few of us, however, were ever exposed to the concept that a regular and conscious practice of gratitude could be a means to achieving higher states of consciousness and deeper levels of connection and joy.

 The practice of gratitude can be broken down into three types. Each type has its benefits; each prepares you for the next type, which is more expansive and transformative than the previous one.

 Type 1.-  Lip-Service Gratitude

If you were asked to make a list of the things you’re grateful for, what would it include? Most likely, you would list important relationships, life circumstances, and possessions, such as:

• your health

• your family and friends and their health

• your significant other

• food on your table

• a secure job

• a comfortable place to call home

• your car

• your companion animals

• your connection to a higher power or your “Source”

In truth, most of us have a tendency to take for granted the items on our lists and to focus on what isn’t working in our lives. I call this most basic type of gratitude “lip-service gratitude” because we usually express and experience it for only a moment and then go back to focusing on our problems. We generally express this type of gratitude for one of four reasons:

1. To boost our spirits when we’re feeling down, negative, or just plain blah — “It’s really not that bad; at least I have a roof over my head.”

2. To pump up a weak ego by flaunting our good — “I’m so blessed to have such a successful business and so many wonderful clients.”

3. To highlight our awareness of our good fortune so that we don’t appear ungrateful — “I know that I’m fortunate to be married to a wonderful man/woman like.... .”

4. To let others know that even though we’re complaining,we know that we don’t really have it all that bad — “I know that, relative to others, I have it pretty good.”

There’s nothing wrong with this type of gratitude. It’s a valuable practice because it reminds you of your priorities and can temporarily lift you up when you’re down. It takes you out of your never-ending focus on good and bad, right and wrong, and allows you to simply fill up on the good that is ever present — the good that we all tend to take for granted. The problem is that it doesn’t create deeper change in you, and it isn’t particularly effective in combating the spiritual depletion and inner emptiness that drive emotional eating.

Type 2 – Attitude Gratitude

Unlike type 1 gratitude, the second type is not just a temporary state we enter when things are going well or as compensation when we feel down and dissatisfied with our situation. Type 2 gratitude represents a more permanent underlying shift in attitude. Your feeling of gratitude goes beyond your life circumstances and possessions and is actually independent of outcomes. You’re grateful for all your experiences, positive and negative, and you see them as part of the journey called life. You’ve come to realize that life has constant ups and downs and that there ’s always much to be grateful for. If you were to make a list of things you’re grateful for while experiencing this type of gratitude, your list might include everything on the previous list, plus things such as:

• your mistakes and failures

• your trials and tribulations (including your relationship with food)

• your obstacles

• your phenomenal physical body

• your very existence

• freedom, as you know it

• the planet and the universe

 As with type 1 gratitude, you may find that you shift in and out of this attitude, but with practice it can become the state of mind you live in most of the time. Type 2 gratitude can offer warp-speed mind, body, and spirit healing.

Stop for a moment and reflect on some of the near-miraculous activities taking place outside your conscious mind as you read this paragraph. Some examples:

• Your intestines are converting the food you recently ate into energy.

• Your heart is beating and circulating blood throughout your system.

• Your brain is processing and absorbing the information on this page.

• Your eyes are absorbing reflected light, which assists you in reading this page.

Pretty incredible, if you ask me!

Focusing on your most basic blessings offers, at a minimum, many benefits. On a purely physical level, it’s calming and reduces stress. It can temporarily lower anxiety and lift depression by quieting your mind and interrupting self-defeating thoughts and deeply ingrained pessimism and hopelessness. And shifting to a more appreciative outlook opens you up to new possibilities and hope.

As you expand your practice of gratitude by acknowledging and appreciating those around you, a nourishing sense of connection permeates all your activities and encounters. An attitude of gratitude is attractive and contagious. You don’t have to like everything about your friends, family members, or colleagues to appreciate their contribution to your life or the common good. Gratitude can act as a lens that softens disappointments and painful experiences and opens you up for further emotional healing. And by focusing you on the good that another person brings into your life, gratitude helps you adjust your expectations.

By consistently practicing type 2 gratitude, you will no longer be thrown off balance by trials and tribulations, because you will expect them. And even though they involve discomfort, you will view them as positive growth experiences. As you continue to let go of your attachment to the idea that things must go your way, it will become clear that happiness is a decision you can make each moment.

At this point, you may be thinking, “Hey, that sounds great, but I’m not Mother Teresa.” True, but you don’t have to aspire to be another Mother Teresa to make the choice to enjoy the benefits of an attitude of gratitude.

Type 3- I Am Gratitude

The third type of gratitude represents a continuous state of gratefulness, one that you don’t shift into or out of. Rather than practicing gratitude, you live it, all the time. With this type of gratitude, you transcend your daily preoccupation with your small self and experience a sense of oneness with everything. Your life is about selfless service and giving back, because all your needs are met.

Some might call this a mystical state, reserved for the likes of avatars such as the Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mother Teresa, and the Dalai Lama. Most of us mere mortals won’t experience this type of gratitude completely in our lifetimes, but if we’re practicing type 2 gratitude, we may get glimpses of the mystical experiences this type of gratitude can reveal.

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