Feeling Gratitude and Giving Thanks with a Grateful Heart
Thanksgiving welcomes the season of gratitude and giving. Being thankful is a way of showing appreciation. It is an expression of gratitude and Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all of our blessings. Giving encompasses the spirit of participation, sharing committed time, ardently serving hand-in-hand, and distributing resources connected to wealth. However, before we can understand how giving enriches the giver evermore, we need to reflect on how gratitude and thanksgiving begin the cycle of reciprocal altruism.
The Thanksgiving tradition in the US started in 1621 by the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. It is known to be a harvest celebration, a time to give thanks for the bounty of the new land and to be with those we care about. In 1941, the US Congress made Thanksgiving a national holiday, commemorated on the fourth Thursday of November.
Throughout history and around the world, philosophers, meditators, spiritual practitioners, and religious worshipers have extolled the value of gratitude and the virtue of expressing gratitude. Since ancient times the elements of grace and gratitude have been part of a lifestyle for those who live a prayerful God-centered life.
Recognition of grace and expression of gratitude are imbibed as a foundational way of being by those renunciates and spiritualists who claim that without feeling gratitude, grace cannot be recognized. Before we thank others, we express gratitude toward the creator and his creation by recognizing grace.
There is recognition of this other external source which leads to an upwelling of gratitude after having experienced a favourable outcome, be it a source of joy – and that precedes thanksgiving. We thank the creator for the bounty of harvest and harness the benefit with gratitude. While faith is intangible, grace is deemed tangible – a palpable feeling that is often filled with a spontaneous outpouring of gratitude.
Gratitude is not simply a cultural ethos. It has deep roots in the idea of reciprocal altruism that is embedded in our evolutionary history. Non-humans as varied as birds and fish engage in reciprocal altruism — behaviors in which they reciprocate good deeds done to them by others. Elements of grace and gratitude are both evident among most creatures and are verily behind the drive for reciprocal altruism.
Animals and humans are known to share their virtues and bounties first with their own kith and kin who had groomed them earlier. We are more likely to assist others first who have helped us in the past. Sets of identical twins have been known to show a higher correlation of self-reported gratitude than fraternal twins — the genetic component to gratitude develops over many lifetimes and this blueprint expresses in somewhat predictable ways as we would expect.
As an extension of expression of gratitude, the spirit of monastic service inculcates compassion for all, where serving is imbued with a pleasant expression of gratitude through all times without discrimination. Herein fairness is exhibited due to an unshakable compassion that is prevalent as a state of being – indeed a higher evolved trait where acts of kindness are superseded by the achieved state of compassion.
Kindness is a quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. It is helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the giver, but for the sake of giving. While kindness might subside somewhat after the act and might rise again at an appropriate opportunity, compassion is said to be a state of being whereupon the evenness of mind exudes a natural benevolence through constant thanksgiving. A general attitude of kindness is helpful in preparing oneself toward compassion. It is the compassionate one who displays all around equanimity with an expression of gratitude.
The spirit of compassionate serving is deemed as a highly evolved spiritual quality rooted in the feelings of gratitude. Children exhibit gratitude which develops as they mature, and this development is considered to be vital in their upbringing. In the Sanskrit tradition of holistic schooling, elements of nature are also worshipped due to the ideal behind thanksgiving – recognizing what is behind the bounties that sustain us – recognition of grace of God that precedes the reciprocal altruism of thanksgiving and sharing with others.
Ayurveda broadly advises to inculcate the recognition of grace and expression of gratitude, because it claims that more grateful people may be healthier. Developing spiritual values related to the experience of gratitude is said to encourage the adoption of healthier habits and bring about healthfulness.
We are grateful for knowing you and for your honouring us with the giving that sustains us. Let us welcome the season of gratitude despite all challenges on the material plane and seek a spiritual solution to all problems with a calm mind, harnessing our intellectual faculties, and recognizing grace.
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