The idea of making active gratitude a part of my daily Druid practice is one I’ve picked up by listening to what other Druids do. I’ve been consciously doing it for several years now. I think it conveys a lot of psychological benefits as well as contributing to the spiritual life.
It’s easy to use any religion as a comfort blanket, turning to deity with pleas to make things better, and imagining an afterlife full of rewards. Plenty of religions denigrate this life, describing it in terms of sin, or as something to transcend. Pagan religions just aren’t like that. The practice of gratitude encourages us to give daily time to looking at what is good.
From a psychological perspective, dwelling on the bad can be unhealthy and disempowering. Negative thought patterns reinforce depressed and anxious states, and feed anger, low self esteem, and pretty much any other unhelpful mindset you care to consider. What we do with our experiences goes a long way to inform what we make of our lives, and how we feel.
It’s tempting to think that a grateful attitude might encourage a person to accept that which is not good. This has not been my experience. I have been in situations of accepting the unacceptable, but that wasn’t fuelled by gratitude, but fear. In gratitude, I deliberately dwell on the things I value and appreciate. This tends to be a last thing at night activity for me, and usually my first thoughts are of profound appreciation for the comfort of my bed, and the lovely man beside me. I am grateful for the presence of my child in my life, for the roof over my head, for my health. I am grateful not to be hungry, or drinking unclean water. In this process of gratitude I make a point of putting my life in context and reminding myself that, whatever challenges I may have to face, there are plenty of worse things out there.
If anything, making a daily contemplation of gratitude helps me see clearly both the good in my life, and the less good. By focusing on the one, I am better at spotting the other, and keeping it in perspective. There are things I do not appreciate at all, from individual behaviour through to the actions of the government, the media, big industries and the masses. But I am also glad that I at least know these things and have some defence against being embroiled in them.
Taking for granted is a very easy form of destruction. It takes no thought, no effort and yet it has the power to erode relationships, undermine trust and make us blind to the good things. Assuming a right to anything works in much the same way. A sense of entitlement can often be very much at odds with a capacity for gratitude. Where we feel entitled, we dwell on shortcomings, where we feel grateful, we dwell on the blessings. The difference between experiencing people who are practicing entitlement, and those who are practicing gratitude, is vast. The former are demanding, self important, critical, and seldom pleased. The latter tend to be far more compassionate, aware, and co-operative. It’s one of the many choices a person can make consciously, but so many people don’t even seem to realise it even exists.