The power of gratitude

The ability to be grateful is a characteristic of happy people. People who lack this ability will often focus on things which aren’t going well. If they do not find it in the present, they will find something in the past that they are angry at, or something that might go wrong in the future.


A human being is an anxious and worrisome being and the current crisis is certainly not reassuring. All kinds of certainties seem to be falling away.



In this article I will talk about gratitude as a force that can help you get through a time of crisis and find meaning in it. Every crisis, including this one, marks a break with the past. We are forced to let go of the past, to go inward, and from there to grow into a new future. This is often a painful process; there is a reason why we call it a “crisis”. The next three steps can help.


1. Be grateful for the past


A crisis often marks a rupture with the past, and sometimes a very radical one. This is what we are seeing in this crisis. Our way of life seems to have changed forever – the old disappears. Many people experience this break with the past as a loss: beautiful things are over and do not come back – and that causes pain.


A lot of anger, frustration, and unhappiness arise from not wanting to accept that the past is over, certainly when we are going to blame others for causing it. In that case, we are going to feel like a victim.


But now let us say you sit back and feel truly grateful for all the beautiful things that have happened in the past. Feel what they have given you, feel what they have meant to you. Be truly grateful for it.


What happens energetically? The heart opens, radiates to that event in the past – and absorbs it. The event is internalized – pulled into the timeless level of the soul. If we do that, we do not need the physical past; all that was valuable in it, through the energy of gratitude, we make part of the timeless reality of our soul. So gratitude is the key to letting go of the past; the key to moving on to the next enriching experience.


The meaning of the past


Usually we see the past as something that is over and not coming back, something that is lost forever. We place ourselves in all kinds of boxes as human beings, and the box of time is perhaps the most powerful illusion.


I remember a well-known writer agreeing on the heartbreaking pain that the memory of lost beauty can cause forever.


But I see that in a different way. I do not think things can get lost forever in the darkness of the night. A flower that once bloomed is always blooming, is forever a part of the timeless universe.


What was valuable wants to be immortalized in us. The key, the technique, to doing that is gratitude. If we are not grateful, the past continues to call for our attention, it continues to attract us and creates imbalance.


Special events to be thankful for are ultimately always encounters with ourselves. By not being grateful, we reject parts of ourselves, resulting in a fragmentation that always entails a feeling of not being complete, of being unhappy.


In life, we continuosly meet up with ourselves. Sometimes that is a beautiful encounter, sometimes a painful one. But the key to integration is gratitude. Gratitude makes us whole.


2. Be grateful for the present


A crisis is a radical separation between the past and the future. Often a crisis arises because we hold on to the past for too long, so that the future must forcibly penetrate into the present. A beautiful Dutch expression that describes this is: “eventually the shore will turn the ship around.”


Imagine we are all in a big boat and are firmly convinced that the ship is on course. If someone yells that the ship is heading in the wrong direction, we will not listen because we are partying and everything seems fine. Then it happens: the boat collides with the shore and there is a brutal confrontation with reality. We then have to face reality; we were on the wrong course. The big boat that we imagined to be safe is stuck; we are at the mercy of the elements. What next? Lament our fate? Get mad at the captain?

I suspect that if someone in such a situation says: “Let’s be thankful that this is happening”, that no one will be really listening. Still, I would like to try.


A crisis is a break with the past; we feel that the past, when things were good, is being stolen from us. We are angry and sad about that. Blaming someone else is tempting, but does not help us much.


One question that can help us is this: “Who were we? Were we really ourselves in that past that felt so comfortable?”


The way to learn to accept the crisis is to look to the past and really ask yourself the question: “Was I there? Was I totally present there as a human being with all my potential?” If you look at the past before the crisis with complete honesty, you always see something was lacking, something was missing. Part of you was not there.


This is the goal of every crisis that you experience: to help you grow, to help you realize your full potential. The real message of every crisis is: you are much more beautiful and great than you think; you can do much more than you think.


Be grateful for that message.

Be grateful for the present.


Be grateful for the lost part of yourself that comes to you.


By being grateful, you welcome this part. By being grateful, you help yourself to flourish.


3. Be grateful for the future


When we think about the future, we see things that we expect, hope, or fear will happen. These things relate mainly to the outer world; we expect to experience certain things. It is like a part of a movie we have not seen yet. In other words, when we think about the future, we see it primarily as something that is going to happen to us in the world.


This stems from a very materialistic view of reality and the progress of time.


We can also see time as an inner process: we change because our consciousness moves toward completeness. This process does not stop until we are everything; when we are the One.


As long as we are not Everything, there is an inside and outside world. The growth of consciousness also leads to changes in the outside world: this is what we experience as the progress of time in the outside world. In other words, the changes we see in the outside world are a reflection of our inner growth.


In summary, what the future holds is growth, growth of our consciousness. We will discover new dimensions of ourselves. Which ones? We do not know. But the universe is wondrous; We are amazing.


Whatever we encounter in the future, it is ours, it is us. Let us receive ourselves in gratitude.


The great journey through time is the homecoming to ourselves.


Finally: gratitude and duality


There is a little devil in every human being. That little devil tells us something we actually like to hear. Namely, that when something goes wrong it is not our fault, it is always someone else’s fault. So, we are victims. The worldview that the devil gives us is very simple: there are good people and bad people – and we are among the good. So, this worldview divides the world very simply and clearly into good and evil. And if something happens that we do not like, it is because of evil. And that evil is bad and must therefore be fought. The devil preaches duality and we listen. It is nice to be with the good guys. It is nice to be one of the chosen.


The problem with this worldview is that it blocks all inner growth. If something bad happens, we can not do anything about it, or we have to fight it. We maintain duality in this way. We keep listening to the duality devil. Duality blocks growth.


How do we eliminate this duality? By eliminating the duality with the devil in us. Why do you not go in there and look at that little devil? That little devil that constantly yells at us that there are bad and nasty things in the world outside of us. Look at that little devil lovingly and say: “I’m glad you’re here. You point me to things I still need to learn to love, you show me where I can grow. You’re a part of me, but you’re not my boss. I’m grateful.”


Be happy with who you are. Be happy with all facets of yourself. Do not judge yourself any longer, but be grateful for yourself.


Be grateful that your consciousness can experience your unique personality. Only then will the fight with yourself end. Only then will you really find yourself in your power.


© Gerrit Gielen