Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Grace of Gratitude

This is the month that we celebrate “Thanksgiving” in America, and it has always seemed among the best of holidays. Thanksgiving Day is a day of awareness of gratitude. Gratitude has inherent within it a divine grace that uplifts us and enriches our lives.

Gratitude attracts to us more of what we are grateful for. In the same way, criticism attracts more to us of what we are critical of, annoyance attracts to us more of what annoys us, and making someone wrong for their actions or words only attracts to us more apparent wrongdoings in the actions and words of others.

Gratitude is special in the sense that it rewards us more than any other feeling or attitude. It rewards us because it opens up the universal flow of all that we are thankful for, and this flow is infinite, limited only by our capacity to experience gratitude.

Too many of us experience gratitude only when something special happens. If we win the lottery, we feel gratitude—for a while, until we realize how much trouble it causes unless we use the winnings in totally unselfish ways. On the other side of gratitude is the desire for selfish gain.

Many of us rarely acknowledge all that exists in our lives that is worthy of great gratitude. We can have gratitude for this physical body, for this opportunity for a physical incarnation, in which it is possible to progress spiritually through harmonizing karma. We can have gratitude for our home, for the clothes we are wearing, for our family—no matter how troublesome they might seem from time to time. We have no idea how many people on earth live without the many things we take for granted every day.

The secret to experiencing gratitude is living in the present moment. If our attention strays too far to the past or to the future, our experience of gratitude fades and is finally forgotten as our mind once again becomes entangled with familiar egotistical melodramas that the ego has identified with as its “own” life, as what is “happening” to it.

It can be observed, however, by any individual being that clearly perceives, that in the present moment everything is fine. Someday we will realize that in the present moment everything is absolutely perfect. Nothing is ever going wrong in the present moment. It’s only when we begin putting words to stuff, describing conditions, situations, and other people, that we get caught up in the illusion of time and circumstance and lose touch with the Truth of the present moment.

Practice gratitude and see what happens as a result, see the palpable difference in your mental and emotional state. It is impossible to be in a bad mood, or possessed by a negative emotion, if we are absorbed in the experience of gratitude. This is an extremely natural experience; however it requires practice, like everything else, to perfect it and fully manifest it.

When you feel the impulse to be critical, or to think things aren’t going well in your life, or to blame someone else for your own feelings, look around you and see with the vision of the truth all that exists in your life that is worthy of your gratitude. There is so much more than we are aware of, so much more than we ever consciously acknowledge. Gratitude is a spiritual state, and through the consistent practice of it we are spiritually elevated. We can’t wait for it to come on its own account, however. We must generate it from within, through our own conscious intent, attention, and will. We must consciously attune ourselves to it. In the course we are taught how to do this.

Speaking of the course, a participant recently emailed this question: “If I take the attention off my mind and direct it inward toward the higher tattvas, will I still be able to perceive the world and function within it? How will my experience be different?”

By tattvas he is referring to the levels of creation as explained in Kashmir Shaivism, which are referred to in the course because they give a certain perspective of how the creation of our own personal universe happens, and how the Universal becomes the individual. For our purposes here and now, we can simply consider the “higher tattvas” as the higher qualities and feelings, such as love, compassion, kindness, cheerfulness, lightheartedness, and gratitude.

Yes indeed we are still able to perceive the world and function in it. Not only that, we perceive it even more clearly and function more effectively than ever. Simply because we become aware of a higher or more refined state of being doesn’t mean that we lose touch with practical life.

How will your experience be different? You’ll feel lighter, and definitely more lighthearted. You will experience gratitude for all the goodness that has been bestowed on you instead of focusing on the things or people that you assume cause your troubles. All your troubles are caused by your own troubled mind. It does no good to blame them on others, or on life. What we think is what we get.

You’ll stop thinking about things so much. In fact, you’ll no longer have to think. You will think only when it serves a useful function. Otherwise you’ll simply bask in this simple flow of life, appreciating each moment for whatever it contains. You will go beyond qualitative differences between things, and live in a state of pure equality-consciousness, where the only differences are obviously imaginings of the mind.

I was recently reviewing the last two chapters of Siddhartha, written by Herman Hesse and first published in 1951. These last two chapters of the book are among my favorite passages of all that I have read.

Govinda and Siddhartha were close friends in childhood. Govinda left to become a monk, while Siddhartha went through the experiences of worldly life, and finally became enlightened through his work as a ferryman. Late in life the two met again, and Govinda recognized Siddhartha’s attainment. The last chapter of the book is the dialogue between the two of them, and in it Govinda asks: “But what you call thing, is it something real, something intrinsic? Is it not only the illusion of Maya, only image and appearance? Your stone, your tree, are they real?”

“This also does not trouble me much,” said Siddhartha. “If they are illusion then I also am illusion, and so they are always of the same nature as myself. It is that which makes them so lovable and venerable. That is why I can love them. And here is a doctrine at which you will laugh. It seems to me, Govinda, that love is the most important thing in the world. It may be important to great thinkers to examine the world, to explain and despise it. But I think it is only important to love the world, not to despise it, not for us to hate each other, but to be able to regard the world and ourselves and all beings with love, admiration and respect.”

It seems to me that Siddhartha’s response pretty much sums up all that we need to understand or practice. Love of this world, of our life, of what we are doing at any given time, of all others around us, and of ourselves just as we are, allows us to live in a state not comprehended by the ordinary intellect, no matter how well “educated” we might happen to be. And with this love comes a great gratitude for all that life has to offer, for the exquisite fullness of one present moment after another, and there is a genuine appreciation of all that others contribute to our lives, whether we enjoy it at the time or not.

This time of the year is a time for gratitude. During this time practice feeling thankful for all the goodness you have been given. Such conscious practice soon becomes a subconscious habit, and the time will come when it will be as natural to automatically experience gratitude as it was previously to automatically experience emotional reactions, disapproval, fault-finding, and focusing on what is wrong.

If you have never consciously tried feeling gratitude as a consistent practice, then give it a go just as an experiment, just to see what happens as a result. You might be surprised at the life-transforming power that lies within this simple feeling of gratitude for the goodness in your life. There is so much grace in gratitude. Try it out and see what happens.

16 comments:

Christobal said...

Thank you for this blog and also for the course. I feel that my life is being transformed yet again!

I have a question regarding what appear to be logical contradictions that pop up in the lessons. I had noticed some logical contradictions before, but it really stood out for me this month (with Lesson 6) when I saw what appeared to be two contradictory statements right next to each other.

Here they are:

"The mind is not to be stopped, suppressed, or denied. Let it be; be in harmony with it as it
is. Simply observe its activity without getting personally involved
with it."

Then the next sentence says:

"Now that we have the intention to live a life of harmony and
integrity, the mind must not be allowed full access to its habitual
tendencies."

Since my mind is not to be stopped, I allowed myself to think about this. One statement says to leave the mind alone, just observe its activity without getting involved. The next statement says not to allow it access to its habitual tendencies, meaning I cannot leave it alone if it goes along doing what it's done so many times before.

Maybe there is something subtle here that I am missing, because it appears to be conflicting guidance. And my mind does not like that!

D. R. Butler said...

Subtle is an understatement. Subtle is a very subtle way of referring to what you are alluding to.

Yes, along the spiritual path, or along the process of personal development, there will be many seemingly "obvious contradictions." We can also identify this phenomenon as "divine paradoxes," which is simply a more pleasant name for the same process.

One important aspect of spiritual development is mastering the mind; yet another aspect is breaking free from the mind altogether. The "divine paradoxes" help us to break free from the mind.

Breaking free from the mind does not mean we no longer have access to it. It simply means that we choose to no longer be its servant.

It has been well said, "The mind is an excellent servant, but it makes such a lousy master."

One aspect of progress is attaining a point where apparent contradictions no longer bother us or disturb our state. Each side of the 'paradox' serves its own purpose.

If we look at both statements you quote from the lesson, we can easily see that each is true in its own way. Everything is a matter of context and perspective.
Finding and solving apparent contradictions is only another way of the mind and ego maintaining control. If we get caught up in it, then once again mind has become the master and we are its servant.

The first statement you refer to has to do with being free from the mind. Ultimately everything is the same, everything is equal, and once we fully open up to this truth we find that mental patterns from the past are no longer so persistent. We simply flow in this vast and simple, harmonious and coherent, current of life that flows through us as the Truth of the present moment.

The other statement, the "logical contradiction," has more to do with mastering the mind. We can rest in a pure enlightened state, and yet if the mind is not disciplined enough to flow with the harmony of things, it is going to disturb our state. In it's persistence, it is not going to allow us to enjoy our enlightenment.

Enlightenment is not complete until we let go of the habitual tendencies that continually bring us back to our ordinary limited state.

As it says in the lesson:

"Now that we have the intention to live a life of harmony and
integrity, the mind must not be allowed full access to its habitual
tendencies."

This statement will be more clear when you get to the section of the course titled, "Attention, Conscious Intent, and Will." Certain qualities must be developed before we can master the mind, so that we can finally, as it says in the lesson, "Let it be; be in harmony with it as it is. Simply observe its activity without getting personally involved with it."

The thing is, if we can truly observe the mind as it is, and watch it in motion, then it could not get away with all its petty tendencies to bicker and blame and find fault will everything possible.

When you come upon a logical contradiction, you can expand your perspective by looking to see how they are both equally true, and how they ultimately work together. As said earlier, life is a harmonious and coherent whole. It is not fragmented as the undisciplined mind would have us believe.

Thank you for your good question, as we all learn through sharing this exchange. Part of our process includes the insights gained through participating in the dialogue that takes place, and is recorded, here. In this way, all of us can share and learn together, and in this way we grow.

Naganath said...

Last night, I was reading the latest lesson to my partner and read, "How we see something is the CAUSE of what we see." I read it over and over for it to sink in. She said, "I am not absorbing that. I have no business understanding that. Just let that one go."
The more I read it, the more clear the statement became. Understanding our world, our feelings, our negativities, our light, our love springs from within to without causes me to experience great humor (laughter) and lightness. Reversing the flow of experience, as it were, makes me realize the awesome responsibilty one has for creating one's own world and the dharma (duty) to bring love and laughter into it. Recognizing that we are co-creators, nay, Creators with Divine Consciousness, makes me realize the joy of being--that love is all there is. The world is only as "serious" as one makes it.

Chris said...

"Each moment is a clean slate..." I love this little gem. Give a tablet of blank paper and crayons to a small child and they are not likely to spend time making a beautiful drawing on one page, but will instead go through the tablet until every page has something colored on it, even if it's just a scratch. I see a similar thing happening within my awareness. My ego is the small child abhorring the clean slate of the present moment and reaching for the samskara crayons to instantly cover each page with something, ANYTHING other than the clean, white, silence of consciousness. The job is to use will to create a conscious intent to appreciate the beauty inherent in the clean slate and to allow the light to play upon it as it in however way it falls. Thanks.

Kevin said...

Having enjoyed your previous course in the 80's and 90's, and the word "enjoy" doesn't really do it justice, I am rather startled to see the difference in the new course. You seem to have come a long way; more mature perhaps, certainly more precisely clear in your expositions. You seem to come from a much deeper place? What happened to you in the last few years to cause such an obvious difference?

Also, I am sure many of us know that you practiced and served a particular spiritual path for many years before retiring earlier in this century. Why is it that there is never any mention of this path in your writings? Do you in any way disavow your previous path?

D. R. Butler said...

Kevin, there is no "previous path." There is only one path, and I have always remained on the same path.

Of course I have not disavowed anything. I have never quit any aspect of my practice. I have a great gratitude for all that has come to me through my own particular spiritual teachers. I have never stopped a path, nor have I ever started a new one. The path to enlightenment is the same for each of us, no matter how we describe or define ourselves in a religious, ethical, or philosophical sense. Those who are doing the business of quitting and beginning different paths still have much to learn. The true Masters of all paths all agree that there is only one path.

What happened to me in the last few years? Well, having once received the grace of a great Master, it continues to work within until we have become all that we are meant to be, and until we are fully established in the Truth of our own Self.

As far as why I never mention my association with any particular path, it is simply because I agreed not to. I am a man of my word. There is no great mystery.

My writings are intended to clarify the ancient teachings and make them relevant to daily life for a modern audience.

The true path is the Wisdom Religion from which all paths and religions originally sprang. This blog and the course by email represent no "ism" or "ology." There is no dogma to be blindly believed or accepted on faith. There is the simple presentation of the principles of Truth, which can be easily proven simply by applying them in everyday life.

We no longer have to concern ourselves with various paths and the like. Each one of us practices our own path, and no two paths are ever exactly the same.


The main thing is that we are all-inclusive. We exclude no one. We recognize the Oneness in all beings and all paths, and we honor the eternal Self of all, which exists within us as our own Awareness of Being.

dilys said...

I really appreciated the exchange with Kevin and found enlightening the observation that there is only one path and that one does not come and go between paths. I have thought a great deal about this issue and this has helped me to clarify my own spiritual trajectory. I have only read two lessons so far but have found them profound and practical. They are very centering. Of course I loved all the anecdotes in your previous writings but then there is a time and a place for everything.

Steve said...

Thanks, Kevin, for your post, and Ram for your candid response. It is quite tempting to follow the urge to bring an association with a "previous path" and memory of the way things were into the present. On the other hand, it is quite an exhilarating notion to take advantage of, as Chris quotes, "...a clean slate."

Thanks Ram and Kay, for all that you are "doing", and happy Thanksgiving day to all.

Naganath said...

There is only one path, one Way for each individual soul. Many wander but are not lost from the path and the way can be difficult because it does challenge our old concepts and beliefs about the way things are. The Truth is amazing is dispelling the demons and limitations that keep us from recognizing the true Self within. With that in mind, it is easy to see how one gets caught in the drama of the outside world as a distraction. Why certain "events" happen in life is inexplicable. But if one is able to focus on the love and equanamity that subsists in everything, one can better understand what life is all about. Maintaining the practices and sadhana is the one constant that helps pull one through. The path and the individual seem to constantly change when in reality they are the same. Thank you D. R. and Kevin for the clarification. We are all ultimately One even though the mind doesn't think so, and the Great Masters have an endless job in causing us to come to that recognition. For that I am eternally grateful.

Monique said...

I wanted to share something that just happened that revealed something to me about the true value of the course D.R. offers. I've never had a question come up before, but I had a question that was very timely and that I really needed an answer to. I think I mostly hoped that by writing to him and verbalizing the question, the answer might clarify itself for me.

After I sent the question by email, the most obvious answer suddenly arose in my mind. Then, exactly 12 minutes after I sent my question, D.R. wrote back saying the same thing that had come to my mind as the answer.

That simple exchange taught me a lot on many different levels, not that I can put it all in words. One thing is that it gave me the sense of an immediate Presence that is always available if we only call on it.

All I can really do for now is share the experience with you, and maybe it will mean something to you too. I send my love to all those who are participating in the course with me, and of course to every gentle soul who happens to be reading this.

Naganath said...

Reading and experiencing this month's exercise (Lesson 30) I uncovered an old memory. As the excercise suggests, I have been imagining (imaging?) my life one year from now with my goal of living in a state of unconditional love. Whilst doing this, I remembered that when I was young I would get these feelings of amazing joy and contentedness with full knowing that when I "grew up" my life would be amazingly perfect. These feelings would usually last only a few hours but they were such a reassurance that life was "going to be" perfect and I "famous." I would experience so much love. Now I know I am "becoming" aware of the Truth I experienced as a child. (Although, obviously, I still haven't ever grown up yet.)

Wendy said...

I am on the third month of the course and it has already far surpassed expectations. I have a question that I'll post here on the blog. I am having to deal with intensely negative vibrations from other people in my life, and I wonder are there any techniques that will help to ward off the negativities of others?

D. R. Butler said...

Give them love, more love, and nothing but love.

The more negative a person gets, the more we need to be centered in a place of pure, unconditional love. Love gives us the power to ward off everything else.

Never focus on the other person or his feelings when he is negative. Remain centered in your own highest state. Be firmly anchored within yourself. Focus on radiating love from your heart. This has the power to purify your environment, and impacts the feelings of others. Love has the power to calm the savage beast.

In the lessons of the course we deeply explore all aspects of relating to others, as a large part of our spiritual work, or personal development, lies in the area of maintaining harmony with others.

This is why we have been given the other people in the first place. Their job is to be who they are. Our job is to be in harmony with them as they are.

As long as we are in harmony with everything as it is, we flow with the natural movement of the universe, the great Tao. In the experience of that harmony lies a great contentment.

D. R. Butler said...

As you can see on the lower left side of the front page of the blog, I participate on Facebook for purposes of networking. Sometimes I am inspired to write pithy statements there as a means to participate. Sometimes they are unexpectedly personal in nature.

I wanted to share a couple of them with you here, knowing that all of you don't participate in social networks such as Facebook. One is posted in the next paragraph, and the other will be in the next post:

I was arrogant and self-centered, feeling lost and abandoned, when the brilliant Light within spoke and said, 'Never forget who you are when the whole universe exists within your own Consciousness.'

D. R. Butler said...

I thought I knew so much, that I was so wise. I was certain they couldn't wait to hear my words, to read my writings. Oh Ma Maya, how easily delusion creeps in. When the awareness arises that I am one with the Self of all, and that God alone performs all actions, I am thankfully humbled once again.

rico said...

There is an online forum that I frequent where this question was posed recently, "What can you do to alleviate the suffering in the world?". I'd like to share my answer, it's something our friend and mentor has said many times before;
"All we can do is stay present in the Moment. To stay focused on the Love and Peace that is our essential Nature. When we manage to do this everyone one we come in contact with is uplifted by interacting with us."

Wishing all my fellow Bloggers & Students, Peace and Contentment in every moment of this Holiday season and throughout the coming year.