Problems. We all have them. Which makes all this talk I hear about gratitude all the more problematic.
The longer I live, the more aware I am that there are two distinct types of gratitude:
The first is SITUATIONAL or CONTEXTUAL; the other is a STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS.
The first comes and goes based on what’s happening in your life. It is circumstantial; the latter, however, is state of being that transcends what’s happening. It transcends the circumstances of your life.
The first requires an unexpected “good” thing to come your way in order to be inspired or expressed; the latter, however, is the typical posture of your life, an inner awareness of the Divine gifts that are abundant everywhere. It is a capacity you have developed to see a blessing in every setback; the beauty in that which is otherwise ugly; the good in what is ordinarily labeled evil.
Problems with Gratitude
Both kinds of gratitude are important.
The latter, however, is the consequence of a higher state of consciousness. It is only ever cultivated in your life, the consequence of spiritual enlightenment. It is developed over time, as you practice being grateful in any and all situations of life.
This does not mean, however, you pretend to be happy and grateful in the middle of some huge difficulty. There are times when everything goes wrong in life. I know. I’ve been there more times than I have time to write about here. It is not a sign of your superior state of spirituality to pretend that things that suck are actually good.
No, to do this just makes you into some kind of inauthentic nitwit. Wearing a phony smile or mouthing a few phony platitudes while inside you’re screaming at the injustice, just further alienates you from your real self.
Problems with PTLA
All the PTLA’S (as they were called when I was much younger – “Praise the Lord…Anyhow”) is just plain phony.
No, the sign of your real spiritual maturity…your actual growth toward humanness…which includes the acceptance of your own humanity…and, if you have not figured it out yet, this is what genuine spirituality is all about…so, the sign of spiritual maturation is when you allow yourself to step deeply into every life experience, even those you would not wish on your worst enemy.
Once there, which includes your inner admission that this experience actually sucks, your state of being…or consciousness…your spiritual equilibrium has a way of quietly helping you to adjust to the misfortune and so find that, for every step backwards your life has taken, there was first two steps forward.
It’s easy to forget this, isn’t it? To remember, and so focus solely upon, the step back instead of the two steps forward?
Every dark night gives way to dawn.
Even every death gives way to new life.
So, today, and every day, don’t forget the “thank you’s” for life’s good things. You and I should be grateful when things go well. And, we should express our thanks regularly for those unexpected blessings that come our way every day. Like the breath you too this morning when you first opened your eyes to a new day.
The goal of your spiritual life, however, should be to reach a higher state of gratitude. Only then will you understand what spiritual maturity really is – or, what a higher state of consciousness is all about – or, what it means to be thankful in everything…
Only then will Saint Paul’s words ever make any sense to you…
That time when he counseled, “In everything, give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:18).