I have often heard the phrase, “In all things, we give thanks.” I must confess that from time to time when I have heard these words, I have silently wondered, “Really? All things?” I don’t know about anyone else, but I have been met by plenty of people and experiences where giving thanks or extending gratitude was not even on my radar screen. It is on these occasions that I recognize the invitation to return to a thankful heart, and even more than that, a return to the consciousness of gratefulness. So for the next 4 weeks, my invitation to you is to join me on this journey of gratefulness, or as the title says, “The Great Fullness of Life.”
A long time ago, when I was fresh off the streets of addiction, a beloved in my life encouraged me to notice the things I was thankful for as part of the beginnings of a spiritual practice. At that time it seemed fairly easy… I had a roof over my head, I was clean, I was beginning to have friends that wanted nothing from me, and I wasn’t alone, suffering in silence.
The longer I stayed clean, the more freedom I experienced – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. However, what I hadn’t expected was that with this great freedom came great responsibility, not only for my whole life, but for others in the world. This was my introduction to gratitude.
The longer I was in recovery, the more I could hear the ever-increasing sense of responsibility asking me to also acknowledge and give thanks for the things in life that I didn’t like, or even hated! At first I didn’t get it. So I asked a beloved who had walked this path before me, and he told me, “Kelly, gratitude is saying thank you God, and let me show you what it means to me.” I wasn’t feeling very thankful, but I decided to trust his words.
For a long time I practiced this when I found myself slipping into some form of self-centeredness. I practiced it in times of despair, anger, frustration and loneliness. What I discovered in this practice was that I couldn’t experience the freedom or fullness of life if I disliked or hated anything. In order to see life differently I had to love what was in front of me. Once I loved something, it came to me, unfolding gently and gracefully, like a freshly ironed linen tablecloth.
It wasn’t enough to simply recognize the things in life that were easy to like, I had to embrace it all, love it all. I had to look at the things I didn’t like, appreciate them, and even take a step toward them with awe and wonder, like silently approaching a butterfly that is slowly fanning it’s wings on a flower. Stepping into what I didn’t like or want in life, became a form of gravity that drew me into the web of all life. This is why gratitude is such a powerful and compelling tool, it reminds me of my place in this world, in the universe.
I now know that those beginning days of saying, “Thank you, and let me show you what it means to me,” was a commitment to action, to connect with the world outside myself. Therein lies the freedom and responsibility. Today it reminds me that whatever I do, I leave an echo in the world for all life to hear. Those echoes are moments of whole-hearted belonging, where I am showing the world what my life means. Therein lies my thankfulness and gratitude.