While forgiveness heals the heart of old hurts, gratitude opens it to present love. Gratitude bestows many benefits. It dissolves negative feelings: anger and jealousy melt in its embrace, fear and defensiveness shrink. Gratitude deflates the barriers to love.

Gratitude also evokes happiness, which is itself a powerfully healing and beneficial emotion. The great Taoist sage Chuang Tzu even went so far as to say that “When one reaches happiness, one is close to perfection.” When we are happy, we like to make others happy, and this fosters kindness and generosity.

Gratitude is a gift to everyone. No wonder Saint Paul urged us to “Rejoice always” and to “Give thanks in all circumstances.”

Like other attitudes, gratitude can be cultivated. We don’t have to wait for our fairy grandmother to shower us with gifts before feeling thankful. We can develop gratitude by reflecting on the gifts that are already ours. This reflections can be done for a minute, a day, or throughout a lifetime. Most people celebrate their birthday and holidays, but those who cultivate gratitude celebrate every day. We can be grateful because we are happy, but we can also be happy because we are grateful.

We tend to forget how very different the laws that govern the mind are from the laws that operate in the physical world. In the world, if we give a physical thing to another person, whether it be a toy or a diamond, we lose it. Yet in the mind, the opposite is true. Whatever we intend for another person we experience ourselves, whatever we give we gain, whatever we offer flowers in our own mind.

If you feel hatred toward someone, that hate boomerangs back and scorches your own mind. On the other hand, if you offer love to someone, that love first fills and heals your mind. Once this is understood, the desire to hate and hurt starts to shrink, while the desire to love and help begins to flourish. The words “As you give so shall you receive” are profound statements about the way our minds work. This is the basis of the prayer of St. Francis, one of the most beloved of Christian saints:

Grant that I may not so much seek
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.

From the book: Essential Spirituality; John Wiley & Sons, 2000; ISBN: 0471392162; Available at Amazon.com!