As children, we were taught it’s important to say thank you, but not so much about the importance of feeling thankful. As adults, it’s time to give this a closer look, to better understand its more subtle significance to us and our lives. There may be some buried treasure to discover.
Gratitude is a relevant sentiment; and Attitude of Gratitude is a catchy phrase. But I suggest there’s more to this that may influence your energy and experiences. Several years back I wrote an article about gratitude vs. appreciation, the first two levels of thankfulness. I’m going to use a few parts of that article here and add some significant bits, particularly what the third level is and is about, which wasn’t included in that article, because I only recently realized how it connects to thankfulness.
Back then I attached "I am grateful for" in front of all my affirmations (for what I wanted), which was the popular practice advocated at the time. But the morning I contemplated writing an article about gratitude, something niggled at my mind. It was a subtle discomfort about the word, which I realized was a discomfort about the energy I personally felt about it: gratitude seemed, to me, to have a thought of lack attached to it. And that wasn’t what I wanted to feel or practice.
The First Level: Gratitude
I had to look deeper into why the word Gratitude was nudging my attention. I looked it up in my dictionary: A feeling of thankful appreciation for favors or benefits received. I looked up Favor. Amidst the many variations of meaning was: A kind, obliging, friendly, or generous act. Benefit: A kindly, charitable act.
Even though the definition of Favor included above seems a positive one, most of us have heard or read the phrase "I called in a favor;" and please note that obliging is one of the meanings. A favor then, by its nature, can mean something done that often obligates the receiver to the giver. Benefit carries the energy of charity. None of these are bad, per se, but these definitions supported my underlying unrest about the word Gratitude. They imply the recipient is in a state of lack—and, likely, feeling it keenly; and even though assistance may be provided, it doesn’t necessarily cause the recipient to feel empowered or re-empowered; though, it might. That depends on the recipient. Let’s face it: if we find ourselves in real need of assistance, we’re darn glad to receive it. So, gratitude has it’s time and place. But none of us like or want to feel disempowered.
The Second Level: Appreciation
I moved on to Appreciation, or its root—appreciate: To think well of; understand and enjoy; recognize the value of. No mention of lack or obligation, just enjoyment, understanding, and recognition of value, on some level, of something. So, what is the, even if somewhat subtle, difference between appreciation and gratitude?
Let's try an experiment using both words. You sit down to a meal and say, "I am grateful for this meal." Deep down (or perhaps right at the surface, depending on the circumstances), there may be a fear-based, even unrecognized or not-perceived, form of relief that you are not one of the starving millions or one of the homeless. There’s something of a “There but for the grace of God go I” energy present or, perhaps, the energy of “If it wasn’t for (whomever), I wouldn’t have this.” Now suppose you say instead, "I appreciate this meal." You recognize the value of the food and what it provides to your body, and even the experience. You appreciate every person, critter, or plant that made it possible for you to be able to have access to the food and whatever means you have that either provided the funds to buy it or receive it as a gift or offering of camaraderie. This may seem a subtle distinction, but it's there, at least it is for me. Appreciation seems a happier, stronger way to feel. And it’s been my experience that if I practice appreciation, it keeps me from having or having more experiences than I’d like that lead to a need for gratitude.
Okay, that gives us a brief look at Gratitude and Appreciation. I said there were three levels.
The Third Level: KNOWING
Knowing the Truth is what the third level is about; the Truth that Source is All That Is, which includes you and your supply of every real need and whatever is for your highest good. The Truth that it is not about what you can get from the flow but that you get into the flow! Knowing is more than an attitude: it’s a state of mind and being.
Look around you right now. Like it or not, there is nothing and no one who isn’t an individualized expression of Source, including you. Ernest Holmes wrote in his book The Science of Mind: “Mind is individualized but never individual. This Mind which is Universal will never be any less than Universal; It will never be individual, but It will be individualized. There is a great difference. The wave in the ocean will never be a wave by itself. IT WILL BE THE OCEAN AS A WAVE.” I include this passage because it is so very easy to forget what we are actually and eternally a part of.
But what about Knowing; what does that even mean? How do you know when or that you Know? It’s challenging to explain what it means to someone who’s never experienced Knowing or identified it as such, like trying to explain water to a fish. Knowing is a personal experience; so even if I managed to explain it in any reasonable way, you’d only relate if you’d had your own experience of it. I’ll give it a shot, though.
For me, Knowing is a pervasive flash of feeling that rushes over me, into me, out of me—is one with me as I am one with the feeling; a moment when I am aware of being the wave and the ocean, the water and the fish. It’s awareness of the Divine that, for a brief period of time, snaps me out of the amnesia the illusion of physical reality creates and supports, so I remember, so I feel, the Truth of where I come from, who I am, and the Truth of what Source is and what our real relationship is. Here’s something to keep in mind: the eternal you is already in a state of Knowing, but you and I agreed to forget that when we came here so we could experience physical reality in a way that served our highest spiritual good and purposes. And if we do have flashes of Knowing, that’s part of our purpose, as well.
When certain experiences happen and I find myself slipping or crashing out of balance, it’s very easy to temporarily forget I’m not alone—ever. I’ve had a number of experiences that proved I’m never alone. One in particular was when I was drowning. I was an adolescent; and friends from out of town were visiting my family during the summer. My father arranged with a motel downtown to let us use their swimming pool. I don’t recall what happened to cause it, but I became aware that I was drowning. I was taking in water and sinking fast in the deep end of the pool, and couldn’t stop this. My thought was, “My family and friends are all around me, but no one is aware I’m drowning.”
Immediately after that thought, two Beings were at my side. I didn’t see them with my eyes, but saw them with my awareness, as though I viewed them with peripheral vision. But, it wasn’t my time to depart this life. They speedily lifted me up and onto the side of the pool, where I choked and gasped until I recovered. Once I had my breath back, I looked around: No one was aware of what had happened or even looking my way. It was as though they were in one reality and I was in another, but in the same physical space.
Why do I mention this? There’s no way to experience Knowing, in its myriad appearances, and still believe you’re alone or on your own or without assistance at the ready—ever, which is something to genuinely appreciate! And there is the experience of simply thinking a thought and having it or something even better manifest (I love those!), and Knowing it’s not a one-time-only experience, which is evidence of something collaborating with you for your benefit, right? When similar experiences happen a time or two or two hundred or two thousand to and for you, it’s easy for you, or could be, to get into the KNOW. You may have to remind yourself of this, especially when tempted to forget it.
The thing about the three levels is this—and, yes, this is my personal take on this topic: Gratitude, based on its definition, usually comes after you receive something. Gratitude is like having a small screwdriver for a larger screw. Appreciation usually follows receiving, as well; though, you can also practice feeling appreciation beforehand, which usually requires you remind or re-Mind yourself to do this. Appreciation felt before manifestation does get momentum going and creates results. Appreciation is like the right size screwdriver. Knowing, however, is something you can train yourself to live, maybe more so in moments rather than all the time; but it can be deliberately, instantly engaged for your own purposes, again, not so that it’s about what you can get from the flow but that you get into the flow. Through Knowing, you begin to recognize that you play a significant part in what you create or can create. Knowing is like a battery-powered magnetic screwdriver: it gets the real job done quickly and easily, you feel confident and comfortable about relying on it, and you don’t drop or lose your screws.
Something else Ernest Holmes wrote is this juicy bit of Truth: “They saw the shadows of bondage, and thought they were bound, while all the while the chains had no reality.” What a profound truth to keep in mind: what we believe binds us, that is, impedes our freedom, flow, abundance, prosperity, and well-being are nothing more than shadows of wrong thinking. The Truth really will set you free, but it starts in your heart and mind connection then radiates outward, into your experiences and your perceptions of your experiences. Knowing is the form of thankfulness that frees you from the chains of dark-shadow thoughts.
It’s a good practice to say “Thank you for” before whatever it is you truly desire, and especially to communicate your genuine appreciation of Source when you communicate with Source. I read once that if the only prayer you ever say is “Thank you,” it will be enough. There’s true wisdom in that statement. Sit with it quietly and see how it feels and what comes into your mind and awareness.
We may continue to practice all three levels of thankfulness, based on where we are in our mindset in a particular moment, and that’s okay. Each level has its turn at being appropriate for a particular moment. However, imagine how Source responds to you Knowing the Truth and living from there and appreciating this dynamic and your ability to engage it. Imagine how you respond to and collaborate with life when you do this. It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.
Practice makes progress.
© Joyce L. Shafer
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Joyce L. Shafer is a Life Empowerment Coach dedicated to helping people feel, be, and live their true inner power. She’s author of “I Don’t Want to be Your Guru, But I Have Something to Say” and other books/e-books, and publishes a free weekly online newsletter that offers empowering articles. See all that’s offered by Joyce and on her site at http://stateofappreciation.weebly.com