|+ home > features > readings > Living in Gratitude , Part 2|
Four Universal Portals to Gratitude:
Blessings are the primary, cross-cultural portal through which we experience gratitude.
There are four portals—or entryways—to the experience of gratitude. Recognizing these portals at the time when they appear in our lives is key to developing the capacity to cultivate gratitude. Blessings are the primary, cross-cultural portal through which we experience gratitude. Learnings, mercies, and protections are three other portals attributed with fostering gratitude in various worldwide cultures.
To be merciful is to have a disposition of kindness and compassion that bestows unexpected forgiveness or clemency. Mercy alleviates distress through acts of charity or benevolence. Merciful acts generate thankfulness, both in those who have initiated the acts and those who have benefited from them.
Inherent in all humans is the instinct to protect ourselves and others, especially those we love—to keep ourselves and others safe from harm, injury, or attack. Every culture has practices, prayers, rituals, and invocations for protection. Housewarmings are blessing and protection rituals, as are ribbon-cutting ceremonies: in cutting the ribbon before walking into a new workplace, we ask for blessings and protections to cut away the old and open to the new. Worldwide, parents bless their children to keep them safe, and remain vigilant in their efforts to keep them from harm. Feeling protected always engenders gratitude, and this is not limited to those who protect us in the seen world such as our elders, or others who may choose to watch out for us. We also call on the help of ancestors, the Mystery, and spiritual figures such as saints and angels for protection.
These universal portals of blessings, learnings, mercies, and protections offer the human spirit the gift of awareness,the ability to recognize all those things that can inspire gratitude amid the paradox of life’s happiness and suffering. As Robert Emmons reminds us in his book, Thanks!, whether we are happy or suffering, “Gratitude is the way the heart remembers––remembers kindnesses, cherished interactions with others, compassionate actions of strangers, surprise gifts, and everyday blessings. By remembering we honor and acknowledge the many ways in which who and what we are has been shaped by others, both living and dead.” We can understand the magnitude of gratitude’s power when we consider how the intention of thankfulness corresponds with the deepest human realities of connection, creativity, healing, and wholesomeness.
Angeles Arrien, PhD, is a teacher, author, and cultural anthropologist whose teachings bridge the disciplines of anthropology, psychology, and comparative religion, while focusing on universal beliefs shared by humanity. She lectures and leads workshops internationally at colleges, corporate settings, and personal growth facilities.
Her book - Living in Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life (Sounds True, Inc., Boulder, CO, ©2011) - integrates the latest teachings from social science with stories, prayers, and practices from cultures and traditions spanning the globe, and presents a 12-month plan for making gratitude your foundation for daily living.
The above excerpt is posted with the author's kind permission.