Fridays - Spiritual Healing

   

Gratitude

August 24, 2017

Happy people remember their past with gratitude, they are happy with their present and they face their future with no fear. Epicure. P 201. Psychology of Gratitude Joanna de Ângelis – Divaldo Franco

 

Why should we study about gratitude? Most of us are grateful in life, most of us can say “Thank you” when someone gives something to us or do something for us. If we receive a gift from a friend we say, “Thank you.” When we receive a meal or a coffee in a restaurant we say, “Thank you.” When we get a new job we say, “Thank you.”  So, isn’t this enough? On the top of saying thank you we sometimes also feel the need to give something back, to return the favor. This feeling of giving back because we received something is what we normally call gratitude; that is usually our idea of gratitude…But actually for Spiritism gratitude involves much more than that. So, tonight we will learn a bit more about gratitude according to Spiritism. For this presentation, we have used the book “Psychology of Gratitude” – Divaldo Franco – Joanna de Ângelis.

 

So, let’s start by analyzing the possible attitudes regarding Gratitude:

 

-        Some people are never grateful. They don’t say thank you to the waiter, to someone that they work with, to a family member, he/she just receives things and favors and that is it. Instead of being grateful he/she complains pretty much about everything -- the weather… too hot, too cold, too much rain…., the traffic, his/her hair, the job, the life and nothing is good enough. So even when something good happens he/she will try to find something wrong. How was your holiday in Hawaii? Horrible, the flight was delayed, it was raining, didn’t like the food…No Gratitude at all – regardless of the situations in life…

 

-        Some other people are always grateful for the good things that happen to them but they are never grateful for the difficult moments or challenges in life.

 

-        A few people are grateful for the good and bad things that happen in their lives. They do that because they fully understand gratitude. At First, it seems a bit strange to think that we should be thankful or grateful when something bad happens. But if we consider that good and bad things are part of our evolution and challenges in life that will make us learn and grow (if we are open to it) we will start to understand gratitude for the bad situations in our life. 

 

Our goal should be to experience gratitude for everything that happens to us. We should thank everything and everyone that somehow is part of our life. To be thankful for the good and the bad things that happen because the bad things are part of our spiritual evolution.

 

“Everything that happens, even the ones that result in unpleasant sensation or disturbing feelings, belongs to experiences that improve the human being” …

 

“The lucid comprehension that everything has a relevant meaning provides inner harmony, working for overcome the difficult situation, in order to reach plenitude”.

 

"Gratitude for everything that happens must be always the emotional and mental attitude of all human beings.” So According to Joanna de Ângelis, real Gratitude is a much deeper feeling.  

 

So, let’s try to understand a bit more about gratitude then. Analyzing our journey in this life as babies we don’t know about Gratitude, right? Since we were born we received everything that we needed -- food, cuddles, bath, health care and we just receive it. We don’t need to do anything. A baby doesn’t think “My mom just gave me food, so I should be grateful.” As we grow up we start learning that we will need to do things by ourselves.  Hopefully, we will learn as well that when someone does something for us we should be grateful and try to “give back” or “return a favor” in some way.

 

It is easy to feel grateful when everything is good or when something good happens to us. For example, we really want a job and we try for months to get it. We finally get it. On the first day we are really happy, really grateful. During the first week and the second week we are still happy and grateful. Then on the third week something goes wrong and the feeling of gratitude goes way… The challenge is to be grateful in the hard times, when things don’t go the way we expect. Normally in the difficult times our tendency is to complain, to put ourselves in the victim position, and to compare ourselves with other people and think that they are luckier than us, and that is not fair.

 

So, we need to admit to ourselves that many times in our life we are ungrateful. When we are ungrateful we are denying that we need to grow up, and we feel that we are entitled to keep receiving everything in the same way that we did when we were babies/kids and that other people should do things for us all the time. So even when we receive something we don’t feel grateful for it and we get really upset when we don’t get what we want and we start complaining and when we are ungrateful we complain about everything. When we are ungrateful, we don’t value the contribution of other people. We believe that we deserve to be served and we have no obligation to return the favor to give back. In other words when we are Ungrateful, we suffer from “anxiety” because we are not so sure if things will really happen the way we want them to happen. We suffer from “low self-esteem” because by expecting other people to do for us we start believing that we are incapable to do by ourselves. We “fear” to fail the challenges in our life and so we let someone else do for us. We are avoiding taking risks in our life and finally we suffer from an “inferiority complex" because if we always expect people to do everything for us and we don’t do anything for them, we will feel that we are incapable and therefore other people are superior and more capable and better than us.

 

Let’s analyze then one of the explanations of why we are ungrateful in many moments of our life.  We all have our dark side that many times is considered as our negative side. Carl Jung call this dark side “shadow”, according to Jung “Everyone carries a shadow" Jung wrote, "and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." In our “shadow” we have our repressed feelings, wishes, tendencies, our moral imperfection and most of them are repressed because is too hard for us to deal with them so the shadow hides them from us. “The shadow can be seen as fog or illusion that blocks the sun of reality”. We are all ashamed of our shadow; we are ashamed of our imperfections, so we learn how to hide it. Lots of courage is needed to face our shadow. Joanna de Ângelis tell us that it is really an everyday and continuous battle that we need to face and when we love, respect and act according to the divine laws the shadow loses but when we react with hate, jealousy, negative feelings the shadow wins… When we are grateful the shadow loses, when we are ungrateful the shadow wins… “This way, the shadow is the biggest psychological obstacle to gratitude”. Gratitude should be a natural habit for us to reach this stage training is needed every day because the shadow will be on the way of our improvement.  

 

Now just a short story to illustrate “gratitude”. A business man used to go every day to the same place to get a newspaper and the guy that served him would just throw the newspaper in his direction and not even say thank you for the money. One day another guy that worked at the place asked the business man why he would still go there every day and accept the bad treatment. The kind man replied: - “It is a principle matter. I don’t allow his bad manners to affect my behavior.  I am too grateful for my life to let something small like that interfere in my happiness.” “The bad doesn’t affect the good, which is its antidote.” It doesn’t matter what people do for us, what matters is how we react to other people and the circumstances in our life. 

 

So, we know that we are not able yet to be grateful all the time, but recognizing it and trying to be aware of the moments that we are ungrateful will slowly help us to change our behavior. It is not easy. We know that we are in a planet of Trial and Expiations, so we can expect hard times and as we can expect good times. It is up to us if we choose to learn with the difficult experiences and improve ourselves or if we choose to just complain and don’t learn anything. We can be an Ungrateful Victim or a Grateful Learner. 

 

We could deal with our issues in a more positive way by starting to be grateful and recognizing that challenges are important for us. We can make our life situation better if we want to through good thoughts, good actions, humility, and solidarity...

 

In our current context, the material life goals are considered much more important than spiritual goals.  Normally people with more money are perceived as happier than people with less money. Someone wins the lotto and we think “How Lucky” or “What a beautiful car” or “Look at this house.” Many times, we wish that we had all these material things. We believe that these things would make we happy. So, this way, we focus in on the material things. We get distracted from ourselves instead of pay attention to ourselves, our feelings, our strengths and our weakness. We focus our attention and energy to the outside material world. Most of the time we want to have things, not because of ourselves, but because of other people. We want to show people how cool we are -- “Look at my car, my house, my boat”. So, our tendency is to focus on the material life rather than the spiritual one. This behavior intensifies our anxiety, fear and solitude. By doing that we forget about being grateful. “The worry about accumulating and buying is continuous, without valuing the blessings that we have such as health and mental lucidity”.

 

To reach spiritual goals takes time, our inner reform takes time, and “knowing ourselves” is a continuous work that can’t be done overnight. On the other hand, our material goals and material life is becoming faster and faster. Technology is so fast that even when the computer is a bit slow we do not even have the patience to wait for it to work... “I need a faster computer.” We have 1000 online friends and many real-life friends. Not easy to keep up with all the changes, to be informed to know what is happening, and to reply to all our emails, Facebook, etc. Our bad use of these technologies leads us to anxiety, depression. We don’t even find time or remember to be grateful for our life as we are just so focus in our online lives.

 

Why are we here? What is our mission? What is the meaning of our life? We don’t stop to reflect on it. We are too busy, no time, we can’t relax, we can’t stop, no time for ourselves, no time to find out who we are, or what we doing here? Nobody can answer that for us. It is our job to find this out. That is why is important to do our own self-discovery work, so we can be aware of our positive points and our negative points as well. It is important to be always grateful regardless of what we discover on our journey.

 

Joanna de Ângelis recommends that we exercise our gratitude. Even if in the beginning we are grateful because we know we should be and even it feels almost like an obligation. Normally we start by feeling the need to return the favor when we receive something. By exercising gratitude, we will feel the need of positive contribution to others. In other words, the need to do charity. “The Gratitude has this wonderful quality of making us perceive people as more beautiful and better”.

 

The superior spirits tell us that it is always better to give than to receive, if you give something away it is because you had that to give away. The person who is receiving is creating a debt with life. The giving here is not only referring to material things (which are much easier to give) but mainly referring to the charity that comes from our heart from our will to help. When we give our time to hear someone, when we support people in their difficult moments, when we visit a friend that is sick, when we smile at someone, and especially when we forgive someone that hurt our feelings, according to Joanna forgiveness is the highest level of Gratitude. 

 

How can we become more grateful?

 

- We can be more grateful by having thoughts of gratitude will eventually become actions of gratitude. (If we really want to be grateful we need to start with our thoughts, because in a way everything starts from our thoughts). Every morning is a new opportunity for us to be grateful, when we open our eyes in the morning it is a perfect time to start being grateful by saying “Thank you God for my life and thank you for this day that is starting now.” When we are having our breakfast is another opportunity of being grateful for the food.” When we walk outside we can be grateful for the beautiful sky, for the sun or for the rain, or for the breeze that we can feel. Then we can think about people that are part of our life and be thankful for having them in our life because we learn with them. We have the opportunity of becoming better because of the relationships we establish with them...

 

- We can be more grateful by having comprehension of other people’s actions through our tolerance, understanding and personal humility (everyone behaves according to their level of consciousness and intellectual moral stage). 

 

 - We can be more grateful by giving real forgiveness.

 

- We can be more grateful by believing that we should be grateful for the good and the bad things that happen with us by understanding that everything contributes to, and is part of our spiritual evolution. 

 

The feeling of gratitude makes us want to help to contribute to the wellbeing of others and the society. Solidarity is the way of expressing the joy of living and developing relationships that edify our feelings or awake the ones that were asleep.

 

There is a famous story about a Buddhist monk that can illustrate this a bit more:  

 

“The monk was walking in a forest with his disciples when they saw a scorpion drown in the river. The monk immediate ran and caught it in his hand saving the scorpion from a fatal death. When he was bringing it back, the scorpion bites his hand and because of the pain the monk drop the scorpion in the water…The monk ran and got a piece of wood and saved the scorpion again. One of his disciples asked him then: - Master, are you all right? You tried to save the scorpion and the scorpion returned the favor with a bite that caused you pain. Wouldn’t it be natural that you let him die instead of trying to save it for the second time? The monk smiled and replies: The scorpion acted according to his nature, and I acted according to my nature. He reacted by instinct, I acted according to my feeling of love for everything and everyone”.  

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