With Thanksgiving this week, I wanted to spend some time focusing on gratitude. One memory sticks out to me more than the rest when it comes to being thankful. In college I wanted to learn how to play the guitar. Now if you know me musical talents somehow skipped out of my gene pool. Despite this inconvenient circumstance, I pushed forward practicing countless hours attempting to get better and find this mysterious thing called rhythm. I did improve through practice and repetition but progress was slow.
One day my friend, now wife, Emily was heading back home for a few days. Before leaving she reached into her bag and handed me a blue sheet of paper. I inquisitively opened it up to find the guitar chords and lyrics for the song, "Thank You" by Ray Boltz. Immediately, I was taken back by this simple, thoughtful gift. She knew I loved playing the guitar though my abilities were limited. But more importantly she remembered the importance of this particular song to me. It was the song sung at my father's funeral 13 years before always holding a special space in my heart.
The story highlights my thankfulness for someone who listened and cared for me. However gratitude is not just a feeling we receive from a gift but can be a way of life if we allow it to be. Read along as we explore the science of gratitude and how thankfulness can enhance our spiritual lives?
Science of Gratitude
Why should we be grateful? How does it change who we are? This 2 minute video gives you the quick and easy to understand version on the science of gratitude.
Enhancing Spiritual Life
As you watched above, gratitude can rewire our brains, evoke happiness, and increase our overall well-being. It is also essential for our spiritual journey. Dr. Robert Emmons a researcher on gratitude says gratitude is "an affirming of goodness "good things" in one's life and the recognition that the sources of this goodness lie at least partially outside of the self."
If we look at gratitude as a spiritual practice with this definition than we first have to acknowledge the goodness in our lives. For example writing down or just mentally being thankful for: the day before us, supportive people in our life, shade from a tree, a drink of cool water, shoes on my feet, the warm memories I have shared, and each and every breath I take. What is the goodness in your life? What are the little things you miss out on everyday? What is at the center of your heart?
Secondly, we have to acknowledge the goodness we have comes from outside of ourselves. This may mean believing in a higher power or spiritual being that has provided this goodness by means of the worlds motion. Or it may just mean relinquishing the thought that we control everything in our lives; that everything we get is from our own means.
Gratitude brings humility in our lives. When we step back and humbly become appreciative with what is really in our hearts suddenly our perspective begins changing. Our perspective moves from our past and future to the present. Everyday moments are suddenly treated as a gift to take in and behold. This is spiritually powerful as it allows us to stay present with people, with nature, and with ourselves. It can reshape our spiritual lives if we allow it.
If you have felt spiritually lost, disconnected, or unsure about what you believe, I invite you to try the spiritual practice of gratitude. There are many forms for this practice to take. For three specific ways to engage in this spiritual practice go to the CanyonRanch blog.
I challenge you to have the first thought in your head when you wake up be "Thank You." Not who posted last night, what do I have to get done, or I just need five more minutes as you press the snooze, but simply "Thank You." For me this is hard but a goal to shoot toward because I know when I wake up thankful for another day, most likely I will be more thankful throughout that day and end the day with gratitude.
I will leave you with the song "Thank You" by Ray Boltz. The line that I love the most is "each life somehow touched by his generosity." What are you thankful for in your spiritual life? In what ways can you further others spirituality?
A big THANK YOU for all those following and sharing this blog! This week practice being thankful! The advent season is here so over the next 4 weeks we will specifically look at the virtues of Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. The first will be about Hope leading up to the 1st Sunday of Advent on Dec. 2nd.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.