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FEATURE - November 2017
Attitude of Gratitude as a Spiritual Path
by Joyti Ishaya
An Attitude of Gratitude may be one of the most common threads to all religions, as either a path or a goal. In MSI’s commentary on the Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali[i] (considered the most ancient document on consciousness), MSI indicates it is both: “What is the ultimate use of the intellect? To decide to appreciate rather than condemn. The last step is also the first.”
An Attitude of Gratitude is more than thinking 3 things to be grateful for at the end of each day. An Attitude is something that is inherent and constant. The Bible describes an Attitude of Gratitude succinctly in Ephesians 5:20” Giving thanks always for all things unto God.”
Science is finally beginning to catch up with religion. Grateful people are happier. Research shows that gratitude leads to a stronger immune system, healthier blood pressure, greater joy, optimism, and sense of overall well-being, acting with more generosity and compassion, less aggressive, lower levels of stress hormones in their blood, and feeling less lonely and isolated[ii],[iii].[iv] With this many benefits for short time periods and activities, imagine what a permanent Attitude of Gratitude could do.
Just searching for what I am grateful for helps the brain by upping the neurotransmitter dopamine (similar to Wellbutrin without any side effects) as well as increasing serotonin in the anterior cingulate cortex (similar to Prozac).
Let’s face it, sometimes we don’t FEEL grateful! This is important to notice but still move forward. Gratitude can be cultivated. Choosing by faith to thank God in spite of intense feelings of depression, disappointment, or anxiety is deeply spiritual. If you wait until you feel grateful to thank the Creator, you will feel less and less grateful. But if you choose to thank Source regardless of how you feel, you will feel more grateful more often.
Our mind can only do one thing at a time; this may be a curse, but it is also our great blessing. We can choose to follow the stories in the mind (“they did this to me…” or time spent in judgement of others or our circumstances), or we can find something to appreciate. Turning to gratitude releases us from anxiety; we cannot be stressed/anxious and grateful at the same time!
It is important to realize the connection between the mind and the body. Everything that happens to the mind also happens to the body, but the mind is supreme. While we may experience a feeling such as anger (in the body), with our mind we can forge a new brain/body stimulus via appreciation or gratitude (see Upward Rising Current).
One of the greatest natural laws is, “what we focus on grows”. Focus on gratitude opens you to new synchronistic possibilities.
Everyone has shadows that keep them from experiencing the Light that is around at all times. It is important not to ignore these shadows or feelings, as that doesn’t get us anywhere. In Enlightenment[v] MSI states, “with praise alone, one can completely erase all self-destructive beliefs and internal programs.”[vi] In practice, I was amazed as I began to expand consciousness through Praise, there was enough “space” inside to experience both appreciation even while experiencing anger or sadness! Notice the focus on Appreciation, not getting rid of the so-called negative feelings, for the latter puts the attention on the negative feelings!
A friend of mine who committed to a practice of Gratitude, I will call John, was called into his boss’ office one day. As much as he thought John a wonderful employee, they had decided to eliminate that function from the office. Even as his boss was giving him the news, he was using his practice. Finding an openness through gratitude, John realized that he took this job to prove to his family that he was capable of it. Before the boss finished speaking, John was able to move on. Had he not had a practice of Gratitude, he could have gone through a lot of emotional stress and trauma, possibly becoming a victim to his life. Instead, he was ready to move on to find greater purpose in his life.
Max Lucado illustrates another aspect of gratitude with one of his parables. One day, someone knocks on your door and gives you $100. You are pretty grateful. The next day, it happens again. Still grateful? Probably. However, after this happens daily for a week or so, you are standing at the door awaiting your $100. What happens if they bypass your door and go to the next house to give them your $100? In the daily rhythm of life, it is easy to feel entitled to our status, health, wealth, etc.
Another natural law is that with every desire, the outcome is present; with every problem, the solution is there. Why do we not see it? Most often we are locked away from our faith due to judgement, and cannot even see what is already manifest around us, let alone the possibilities that we could create.
If life is difficult for a time, it is important to remember this: As in the book/movie “The Shack,” Papa says that even though evil things happen, God is not orchestrating or creating them. However, God still has the ability to work through them to create good in your life, even in spite of the circumstances. Gratitude helps us be open to that Good to come in.
The only monument in the world built to honor a bug is located in Fort Rucker, Alabama. The Mexican boll weevil invaded Southeast Alabama in 1915 destroying 60% of the cotton crop. In desperation, the farmers changed their crop to peanuts. By 1917 the peanut industry had become so profitable that the county harvested more peanuts than any other county in the nation. In gratitude, the people of the town erected a statue and inscribed these words, "In profound appreciation of the boll weevil, and what it has done as the herald of prosperity." Good can come through any circumstance if we let it.
Every day, we are either expanding or contracting. Many options are available to “work on ourselves” to increase faith, develop compassion, improve our behaviors, be more loving, etc. Alternatively, all of these are accomplished as a by-product of the focus of mastering the Attitude of Gratitude.
[i] Enlightenment, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, A New Translation and Commentary by MSI, published by The Ishaya Foundation Publishing Company
[iii] : R. McCraty, B. Barrios-Choplin, D. Rozman, M Atkinson & A. D. Watkins (1998) Integrative Physiological & Behavioral Science. 32 (2) 151-70.
[v] Enlightenment, by MSI
[vi] Enlightenment, by MSI
Jyoti Ishaya teaches an extremely simple and profound practice based on Attitudes of Praise, Gratitude, Love, and Compassion brought to the west by MSI called The Art of Ascension as taught by the Ishayas. For more information see www.artofascension.com or email Jyoti.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image courtesy of Joyti Ishaya.