“Gratitude reminds us to be like plants, which turn toward, not away, from the light.” -M.J. Ryan, Attitudes of Gratitude
I’m grateful(!) to have recently discovered the book Attitudes of Gratitude by M. J. Ryan. The author shares so many facets of gratitude that I’d never considered before. After reading this book I felt so hopeful! For me, gratitude has always felt very fleeting. I would feel it one moment and then it would disappear for a few days. It feels like the author is almost providing a recipe to ensure gratitude touches all aspects of your life.
Here are my top nine takeaways:
1. Gratitude holds the key to transforming your world every day.
“Gratitude is not just the key. It’s a magic key—all you need to do is to use it, and the world is suddenly transformed into a beautiful wonderland, in which you are invited to play.” – M.J. Ryan, Attitudes of Gratitude
Gratitude is a lens through which we can view our entire world. It expands beyond all of the ups and downs that we experience in everyday life. You can take an ordinary scene and view it through magical (grateful) lenses. I can remember feeling sadness while looking at a beautiful flower garden and thinking to myself, “Here I am looking at this garden and feeling this way. I wish I could see this scene differently.”
Through the lens of gratitude, it is possible. The entire world is delighting you with all of the colors, textures, and light around you. Just seeing the moon, the stars, and the sunrise can fill your heart with gratefulness. It’s possible to see excitement, joy, and fulfillment when you tap into the gratitude frequency. This turns our entire world into a beautiful wonderland.
2. Gratitude involves accepting and appreciating what is.
“Gratitude makes our world feel complete and right. When we feel the fullness of gratitude, we accept life just as it is—however messy, complicated, and drawn-outside-the-lines that may be.” -M.J. Ryan, Attitudes of Gratitude
There is a connection between gratitude and acceptance. It’s almost as if gratitude is the higher level of acceptance. Because not only do we fully accept everything in our lives, but on top of that we add a layer of appreciation. One of my favorite teachers, Byron Katie, says, “Reality – the way that is, exactly as it is, in every moment – is always kind.”
Our stories in our mind, mistaken beliefs, etc. might lead us to think differently. But, as M. J. Ryan says, gratitude encourages us to embrace and accept it all. We can find that sense of contentment in the middle of whatever is happening in our lives.
3. Gratitude brings us into the present moment.
“I realized that this total and complete absorption in the present moment is available to us all when we choose to let gratitude wash over us uninhibitedly.” -M.J. Ryan, Attitudes of Gratitude
This quote came from a poignant moment in the book where the author describes the total joy her newborn daughter embodies while drinking warm milk from a bottle. Her newly adopted infant daughter spent her earliest days severely neglected. She drank watered-down milk and had sores on her body from lack of care.
I love how this example shows how much we can learn from a tiny baby. She could release her past and surrender to a flood of gratitude when offered this simple nourishment. We also can choose gratitude, and allow our past to drift away. While immersed in a state of gratitude we are right here, right now.
4. Gratitude opens our hearts to others in a real moment exchange.
“When you say, “Thank you” and really mean it, rather than saying it out of the social convention, your heart instinctively opens to the person. At that moment, you experience your connection to one another, even if you never lay eyes on each other again.” -M.J. Ryan, Attitudes of Gratitude
So often when we’re given a compliment or a small gesture of kindness and we are too blocked to receive it. When we vulnerably open our hearts enough to feel the energy of the kindness directed toward us it opens a door to connection. Gratitude is like energy flowing between open hearts with both the giver and the receiver benefitting.
5. In gratitude, we realize that we are part of a larger, loving picture.
“We recognize that we cannot live outside of the great web of life that lovingly holds us in its nurturing embrace, and we vow to protect the sanctity of that web.” -M.J. Ryan, Attitudes of Gratitude
When we stop to appreciate the miraculous synchronicities in our lives in the interconnectedness of everything happening around us we’re able to feel gratitude for the wholeness of it all. We appreciated the nurturing, stabilizing, loving energy that holds everything together. Suddenly you realize that there is no lack. We are all part of this masterfully planned matrix and we’re grateful.
6. With gratitude, we open ourselves to becoming part of the great dance.
“As we give thanks, our spirits join with the Great Spirit in the dance of life that is the interplay between giver and receiver.” -M.J. Ryan, Attitudes of Gratitude
This point hit me the most. When I think about how my connection to my own higher power this is something I forget. It’s easy to take for granted the endless blessings that are coming to us all the time. But when we stop to mindfully give thanks for the gifts we’ve been given we’re actually able to come closer to spirit. We see our part in the dance. And we can see and feel the energy and blessings passing back and forth between ourselves and our higher power. We recognize that we are one.
7. To feel gratitude, we must feel worthy of receiving the gifts before us.
“It cannot exist if you don’t recognize that you have received a gift, and it can’t exist if you don’t feel worthy of getting the gift.” -M.J. Ryan, Attitudes of Gratitude
Gratitude requires a sense of worthiness. If we don’t feel worthy of the many gifts we are receiving in a way we deflect them from our consciousness. We must acknowledge “I am here and I am so grateful” because gratitude plays an important role in receiving. So gratitude and worthiness go hand in hand. We open up to the higher experience of feeling worthy of all the experiences, generosities, love, and connection coming our way.
8. Forgiveness and gratitude are connected.
“Forgiveness leads to gratitude, and not just gratitude in general but, in a beautifully healing movement, to an outpouring of appreciation for the very things that caused such pain in the first place.” -M.J. Ryan, Attitudes of Gratitude
This has been a lifelong process for me to embrace and understand. It reminds me of The Four Agreements where Don Miguel Ruiz says, “Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you.” So, ultimately we forgive others for just being who they are. The pain and hurt we feel is our business to work through – it’s not so much about them.
When we are able to forgive things that aren’t even personal (which they never are) then we can move forward into feelings of gratitude. Only then can you can think, “Interactions with this person awoke me to areas of my heart that needed healing. I’ve since been able to care for my tender heart in ways I needed but didn’t know I needed.” You can look back at your life and say “Thank you for everything!” because you would not be who you are today without these experiences. Forgiveness is the gateway to gratitude.
9. Gratitude is a place we can inhabit. It’s a state of consciousness that resides within.
“When we live from this place long enough, we begin actually to inhabit gratitude, our every inhalation and exhalation a breath of thanksgiving no matter what is going on in the external world.” -M.J. Ryan, Attitudes of Gratitude
Robert Emmons, PhD says, “Gratitude has the power to heal, energize, and change our lives. It’s not simply that gratitude brings more happiness or better health. It’s much more than that. It literally breathes new life into us! And society needs more people who are alive.”
Gratitude has the ability to take us even further beyond happiness. It’s possible to live in this space of persistent peace, acceptance, and deep appreciation for what is. That’s a goal worth trying for!
Ps: Do you know anyone who might benefit from a dose of gratitude? Please share this with them!