Living from our heart in a world that can feel overwhelming and painful at times can be challenging.
While there are many things and practices we can do that help us, in this blog post I’d like to talk about why gratitude is a powerful path for opening your heart.
You’ve felt gratitude before at some point in your life to some degree, and if you honestly reflect on those times, you’ll know how it can shift and uplift your mood. You know it feels good because it brings lightness, warmth and resonates with your heart.
But what is it?
I invite you to sit quietly, reflectively, and engage your curiosity, as we explore the power of gratitude.
“It is through gratitude for the present moment that the spiritual dimension of life opens up.” – Eckhart Tolle
Gratitude and Heart
When we feel gratitude for someone or something, it makes us feel closer and more connected to that person or thing… While also making us feel closer and more connected to our self (the two aren’t separate).
Gratitude dissolves the limits that make us feel separate from each other, nature, and all things.
It brings an expanding, a softening, and an opening to something deep inside us… our heart.
For clarity, when I talk about the heart, I’m referring to the essence of who we are. The highest, eternal part. The part that already knows itself intimately as part of creation. It understands and feels it’s connection to all things. From this perspective, the heart doesn’t open or close – it’s always there.
What opens and closes is our relationship to our heart. Our sense of self, with all of its accumulated emotions, traumas, fears and insecurities, this is what opens and closes to our heart’s presence.
Yes, I know, the title for this blog says “…opening your heart.” This is how most people understand it and relate to it, because we usually perceive heart openings from the outside looking in – the ego and its perception of what it thinks the heart is.
But from the deeper perspective of our essence (from the inside out) it’s not like that.
Think of it like this:
Gratitude is a doorway to your heart.
The Connection between Gratitude and Receiving
Take a moment now to think about a time when someone did something for you. Something that really helped you out. Or perhaps when someone gave you a very thoughtful gift that you deeply appreciated. Maybe when someone gave you a valuable piece of advice, some honest reflection, or a genuine compliment. Or perhaps they held a space of warmth, understanding and non-judgement for you when you were upset.
These moments of receiving touch us.
There’s a deep connection between gratitude and receiving.
Gratitude is a heartfelt response to receiving.
And our expression of gratitude is not separate from our ability to receive.
The Wonder and Magic of Gratitude
I hope the feeling of gratitude is starting to grow inside you as you read this!
Now I’d like to inspire your sense of wonder to go even deeper… Feel your heart as we do.
What is this flow of gratitude really?
When we feel genuine gratitude, at a deep level, there’s a knowing that creation has provided us with something we needed or wanted at that time. Whether it’s a physical thing such as a perfectly timed gift, a helping hand, or warm emotional support, while it may have come through another person, it was something much greater that responded through them.
There was a need or want, and the universe responded.
I remember being in Barcelona many years ago. I’d seen the signs and ticket booths for a hop on hop off bus tour of the city. I liked the sound of it as it gave me the freedom to get on and off wherever I wanted.
I was at the ticket booth looking at the prices and a man came up to me and said: “Hey, I bought a multi day ticket and it still has one day left on it. Would you like it?”
The first thing that came to me at the time was how synchronistic! It was perfect timing and I only need one day. I asked him if he wanted anything for it, but he said no. So, he gave me the ticket, I thanked him and jumped on the bus.
I remember this feeling of thanking the man. Of course, I was grateful, but it wasn’t until I was sitting on the bus as it drove through the city that something more profound awakened in me. A sense of wonder and magic for life and creation.
At one level, the giving and receiving was so simple and effortless. I was at the right place at the right time. But on another level, there was more.
As I sat with it, the feeling of gratitude expanded, and I realized the feeling of gratitude I was experiencing was for something much bigger than the man. Yes, his giving and my receiving were aligned, but there was a feeling of being part of something greater. Something that’s always there in the background, but we don’t usually see it.
I’ve had various experiences like this of total strangers giving me something right at the moment I needed it. From a metro pass at Boston airport with the perfect number of days left on it, to a Swiss couple who just happened to be walking by giving us their parking pass so we could park in a residential street of a small town in Switzerland… Yes, they just gave us their pass!
Even as I recall these events now as I write about them, I can feel a deep sense of gratitude flowing through my heart, and a sense of wonder for the unfolding of things and events in my life. And for all the help, support and things I’ve received from family, friends, strangers and nature.
Gratitude reconnects us to something greater than ourselves.
Gratitude and Abundance
When I talked about gratitude above, I gave examples of receiving things from others. But we’re receiving things all the time that we take for granted. Things that don’t necessarily happen in one moment where we acknowledge that we just received help, support or encouragement etc.
For example, how often do you take a moment to realize the oxygen you receive in the air you breathe is because of the trees and plants?
Or for how the bees support pollination of flowers?
Or how the bacteria in your gut are essential for your health and survival.
We receive so much from nature.
If you take some time to observe nature, you’ll see it’s abundant life force for yourself.
During spring you can see and feel the new life emerging from the earth – The first signs of spring with flowers like crocuses rising from the earth. Cherry blossoms and other flowering trees. The vibrant green of fresh new leaves and the expanding foliage of the forest.
The energy of spring is one of expansive abundance.
And as we continue to move through summer and into fall, all of the fruits and vegetables that nature provides us.
Nature is constantly giving to us.
We’re constantly receiving from her.
I encourage you to take some time to sit quietly, observe nature. Not only with your eyes… feel it from your heart.
Feel the unconditional giving of nature.
From this place of receptivity, feel your intimate connection to nature, and allow gratitude to flow from your heart.
Gratitude, Consciousness and Healing
Being grateful is more than something we do. It’s more than what we think. Although our thoughts can help take us there, gratitude is a feeling. It’s a state of consciousness. When we feel genuine gratitude it’s a state where we feel more connected to our heart, other people, nature and all things. We feel part of something greater.
Practicing gratitude is not a substitute for doing the inner work on our emotions, deep wounds and traumas. It’s part of the inner work that supports our journey. Processing and healing our emotions and traumas can help us feel gratitude more deeply, and practicing gratitude helps us to go deeper into our healing journey.
There maybe challenging times and events in our lives when we may feel like there’s nothing to be grateful for. While this is a very valid experience, and the associated emotions may need to be explored more deeply, there is always something to be grateful for.
That doesn’t mean suppressing these emotions and feelings, it just means taking time to find things you can be grateful for. Remember, gratitude is a doorway to your heart, and by consciously practicing it, it will help you to be more present with your emotions and more compassionate with yourself.
Take time to sit quietly and reflect on the people you have in your life. Your family, friends, and workmates. Reflect on all the ways they’ve helped and supported you – from seemingly insignificant to obvious. From a smile every time a friend sees you, or lending you some money to start your new business idea, to giving you a roof over your head when you really needed it… Or those complete strangers you met at just the right moment.
As with nature, feel the giving and support. Feel how you were given something you needed or wanted at that time… Whether you were aware you needed it or not. You may not realize you needed a smile from a friend, but on reflection you might realize how this seemingly small act compounds and does have an impact on your life.
Sometimes we don’t realize we needed something to happen until later. Reflecting in hindsight can help us feel grateful for things we couldn’t be grateful for at the time.
Reflect on the things you have in your life that you take for granted. There’s really no limit to what we can be grateful for. Even technology – computers, smart phones and internet, without which you wouldn’t be reading this now!
As you reflect, feel your heart respond.
Feel the gratitude radiate from inside you.
Let it reconnect you to your heart.
Let the feeling expand and inspire a sense of wonder. Feel how you’re part of something greater than yourself.
It’s like a muscle. The more you practice the more you strengthen the relationship to your heart.
The more you allow gratitude to reconnect you to your heart, the more you become a beacon of light for all of us here and now.
Thank you for doing this!
Your presence is a giving to humanity!
The world needs your heart to shine!
Guided Gratitude Meditation
If you’d like to follow a guided practice to help you, I’ve recorded a guided gratitude meditation (along with various other meditations) that you can access for free here.
The Peacekeeper Project offers training and education to help you quiet your busy mind, so you can live from your heart.
To get started with meditation and learn the Peacekeeper Project’s Heart Space Meditation, you can gain access to a Free Course here.
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