“The greatest wisdom lies not in having the aptitude to answer questions,
but having aptitude to demonstrate gratitude.”


We all bring so much fear into our core belief systems, and more often than not, our religious/spiritual concepts are also subtly or not so subtly infected with it, regardless of our nominal affiliation. The preachers traditionally warn that death is lurking just around the corner, and could strike us down at any time, so we must put on our serious costumes and get straight with God, Tao, the Universe, Shiva, Dharma, or whatever programmed concept we employ to insure we stay clean and sober in the face of our inevitable death and potential afterlife destination.

“I’m not worthy, I haven’t done enough, I’ve accumulated more karma than I can possibly balance out, I’m a sinner, I’m a poor practitioner, I’ll never measure up, I’m unenlightened, etc…” are all conditioned notions which we tend to fixate on and then habitually reinforce as we ponder our fate. The proposition that life is a wonderful gift to be lived, appreciated, and enjoyed, rather than some sort of uphill path that must be traversed, a race to be won by the high achievers, or a struggle to be endured, is still a rare attitude in this realm.

Even the lamas and zen masters who one day proclaim that everything is perfect, just as it is, will turn around the next day and warn of dire consequences unless we keep our nose to the Dharmic grindstone and practice their prescribed method to achieve liberation from all this supposed perfection.

Truly, it’s fear that forms the emotional contraction at the heart. Most of us humans are implanted with the seeds of that fear early on, and carry the resulting contraction in life and relationships throughout the length of our sojourn here. The more we investigate our core motivations, the more we come to recognize that we tend to be driven by fear in our thoughts and behaviors.

Moreover, it is that contractive fear which keeps the full enjoyment of life’s adventure so out of reach. Even our greatest joys are tinged with the intuition of inherent evanescence, and so we tend to grow increasingly desperate as we sense some cosmic sword hanging over us, ready to drop without warning. It is also that same fear which interferes with any genuine sense of gratitude, even though such gratitude is the only truly effective antidote to the emotional contraction at the heart.

Real gratitude is a living, graceful expression of a love that is without conditions, the love that isn’t based on some needy clinging, nor is granted as a pay-off in exchange for services rendered. Gratitude is not only an expression of unconditional love, but by alleviating our fearful contraction, creates the space for an ever-fuller embodiment of such love.

Indeed, as we observe our human condition, we can notice something very interesting. That is, the more we tend to be fearful and complain about the way things seem to be, the more we will be given to complain about. Alternately, the greater our sense of gratitude, the more we find  within our lives that for which we can be grateful. When we are grateful, we are no longer fearful, and without that fear, the rationale for all the greed, envy, and hatred that chronically plagues this realm is no longer ruling us. Even our subconscious sense of lack is neutralized by gratitude, as is our conditioned intolerance for those who appear different than us in their life orientations.

Moreover, gratitude also gives birth to a powerful sense of trust in the functioning of the totality of the universal manifestation, and so even death is not feared, but accepted as part of the natural rhythm of things. It is not perceived as an end, but simply another door that opens in time and invites us to partake of new level of consciousness and appreciation.

When we live life as the gift that it is, then those with whom we come in contact are also affected by the fear-free frequency, and because of our natural connectivity, their own vibration is lifted accordingly. It is such a joyful practice, because its fruits are immediately recognizable, and requires no exotic rituals, complex text study, physical stamina, or revered master teacher.

As we humbly commit ourselves to the practice of gratitude, the circuitry of thought which registers our consciousness to the vibration of love, the vibration of our spirit connection, is increasingly enhanced. This joyful circuitry is established throughout our cellular and consciousness memory, connecting and reinforcing pathways of positive energy communication between our neural processes and physical body functions, resulting in an increasingly positive field of love’s energy abundance.

Essentially, we all know what it is like to be grateful, but by unconscious habit we have allowed fear to have its way. Once we begin to see how that fear has come to dominate our life, we can stop fueling it, refuse its seductions, and instead allow our natural gratitude to return to the forefront. We are not victims, we are not in any real danger, we are immortal spiritual beings of the highest order. Moreover, we have been blessed with exactly what we want, which in this case is life itself (even though at times it may not seem like such a gift, due to the veil of amnesia which accompanies human birth).

Gratitude is the real joy that is present in our being, regardless of what appears to transpire in the dreamy play of causes and conditions. The more that life’s inherent beauty and perfection is seen and appreciated, the more our capacity for such appreciation grows too. Even the very simple things, the little parts of life that we tend to overlook or take for granted, shine with a luminous luster when we pause to allow them to reveal themselves – the gently falling autumn leaf, the soft summer breeze, the freshness of a bright spring day, the majestic silence of falling snow, the smile of a child, the happy bark of a playful dog, a lover’s touch – all are gifts that are abundantly being showered on us, a feast for the soul that we must learn to value, if we are to realize our true potential for happiness.

Indeed, to immerse ourselves fully in the human experience is the very reason we came here, so we can see in that light that there is really nothing to fear, but only gifts for which to be thankful. Even our difficult challenges are gifts, because their experience permits us to appreciate the full range of life, its sorrows and difficulties, as well as its triumphs. They also bestow on us a level of humility, empathy, and deeper intimacy with our fellow beings, whose lot is often fraught with suffering and tears.

Yes, we can even be grateful for our tears, because they are a beautiful benediction in themselves. The more of this vibrational circuitry of gratitude we create and can access, regardless of the apparent circumstances we encounter, the easier it becomes to maintain a more naturally positive state of mind, body and spirit in this life, and the more of a blessing we become to all with whom we encounter.

“The root of joy is gratefulness. It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful. Look closely and you will find that people are happy because they are grateful. The opposite of gratefulness is just taking everything for granted.
Everything is a gift. The degree to which we are awake to this truth is a measure of our gratefulness, and gratefulness is a measure of our aliveness.
We are never more than one grateful thought away from peace of heart. Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy — because we will always want to have something else or something more.”

~ David Steindl-Rast


About Bob OHearn

My name is Bob O'Hearn, and I live with my Beloved Mate, Mazie, in the foothills of the Northern California Sierra Nevada Mountains. I have a number of blog sites you may enjoy: Photo Gallery: Essays on the Conscious Process: Compiled Poetry and Prosetry: Verses and ramblings on life as it is: Verses and Variations on the Investigation of Mind Nature: Verses on the Play of Consciousness: Poetic Fiction, Fable, Fantabulation: Poems of the Mountain Hermit: Love Poems from The Book of Yes: Autobiographical Fragments, Memories, Stories, and Tall Tales: Ancient and modern spiritual texts, creatively refreshed: Writings from selected Western Mystics, Classic and Modern: Wisdom of a Spirit Guide: Thank You!
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21 Responses to Gratitude

  1. … and namaste to you Bob. I am overflowing with gratitude for the gift of your wisdom.

  2. Fear appears to be hard wired into the entirety of the animal kingdom. The flight or fight response has obviously been an evolutionary advantage for millions of years. As a part of the animal kingdom, our fears, both real and imagined are a natural part of the totality of the human experience. When we hear a rustle in the bushes is it an instinctual response for our hair to rise, our heart rate to increase and for our body to contract into a defensive posture and face the direction of the perceived threat. It has only been a very short period in our evolutionary history that the rustle in the bushes was not usually something we should be legitimately fearful of. For many members of our species, this is still the most healthy response.

    We have by virtue of our highly developed ability to engage in abstract thought, become the dominant species on the planet. We have also through abstraction, bestowed upon ourselves a unique position as semi-devine with a special relationship to the creator setting us apart from all other life on the planet. We reject our animal nature and pretend that we were brought here to fulfill some greater purpose and it is only a matter of time before our overlords return to bring us back to our true home.

    We have eaten from the tree of knowledge and in doing so we have removed ourselves from the garden to dwell within a world of abstracted illusions. We have created a world filled with demons and monsters and dream of a rescue to a world of angels and ariels.

    There have been brief glimpses of the possibility of mankind awakening from this illusion of disconnection. A return to the truth that we we did not come into this world, but out of it. We are no more and no less than one aspect of all life on this planet and one manifested expression of the energy of the whole universe with all that comes with it.

    We are still in the garden and it’s perfectly natural to respond to a rustling in the bushes. There is nothing unnatural about fearing the real dangers that are a part of life. It is by responding from our true nature rather than our illusions that will return us to the place were we’ve been all along.

    We shall see if we shall see.

  3. Sky McCain says:

    This is a wonderful post, Bob; a special Christmas gift to us all. Thank you. After all, when we love the Earth then we are naturally grateful for the gift of life. Perhaps love is our name for the all-pervading Earth energy that sustains us. I was stimulated by the following:

    “Indeed, as we observe our human condition, we can notice something very interesting. That is, the more we tend to be fearful and complain about the way things seem to be, the more we will be given to complain about.”

    Interesting Bob, how you’ve noticed that – of course, I’m not surprised!
    I like to put it as Vadim Zeland has put it {I paraphrase]
    We draw to us what we dislike. We could add: what we fear or put a lot of energy in avoiding.

  4. Thanks for this Bob. I do think however that fear can play a helpful role, it too is part of the nature of things. The issue is not to fear fantasy imaginings, but to also be aware when there are brick walls or cliffs in our path. As an individual, gratitude is primary, there really is nothing for me to fear. But when I think about the animals, the future for our grandchildren, the millions living in poverty, abusive situations… Fear motivates me to act, to assist, to help reduce their suffering in any way I can…

  5. Bob OHearn says:

    “It is possible to choose heart every time. You do not necessarily have to be a master of stability or spirituality to differentiate what is heart. You simply have to ask yourself, is this coming from love, or is it coming from fear? If it is a thought, word or deed created from love, it is of the heart. If it is a thought, word or deed created from fear, it is of the mind. The heart does not know fear for it exists purely in the present; the mind creates fear within a thought for it is associated with a past event. Fear is something you have learned in physical state as a result of a past event. If you choose to live purely in the present, the past cannot plague your thoughts and cloud your heart.”


  6. Pingback: Christianity and other religions. | Unanimous Tradition / Tradición Unánime

  7. JAck says:

    If fear has taken over my soul, my spirit. If more fear through losing a job is around the corner.
    If I tap into gratitude now.
    It is only because I am scared. I do it wish for more fear.
    Isn’t that ‘gratitude’, even if genuine when it manifests peaceful, isn’t that source still fear. Only because i am now genuinely terrified scared, that I wish to lose this path of fear.
    Is that not cowardly in itself or wrong motivational to inhibit gratitude again?

    • Bob OHearn says:

      Hello Jack!

      First of all, fear cannot take over your soul or spirit. Fear is a mind product, generated by mind and maintained by mind. If you want to be free of fear, look into your mind, and see how mind creates fear. In the process, you might also notice that which is there before fear arises, and after it dissolves.

      Moreover, you cannot fake gratitude. Gratitude arises when you are able to examine your life and recognize the great gift that it is, despite any temporary difficulties or hardships that come along in the course of it. In fact, some of those challenges themselves can be seen as gifts, if we are able to see them from the long term perspective.

      It is not cowardly or selfish to want to be free of fear, but it is most effective to understand where fear begins, which is why investigating the mechanics of your own mind is the place to start.


  8. JAck says:

    You are very kind…Thank you for your response. And if it is seen i.e. where it arises, where it dissipates, what is. I see that I create the fear. I see that I create EVERYTHING that is of mind. Thought, feeling, sensation, pressure, I don’t create my body stuff though haha at least that I know of. But I see the mind aspect. But fear…it’s there because I am fearful. That which is, generates that which it feels.
    Gratitude – I hate faking stuff.I always have. I don’t want to take a path because I am scared of punishment. Or maybe I am now. I don’t know.
    You are right that gratitude is, can only be genuine. Like True Love. BUT, I find in my experience it can be blocked also,.so willingness must be part of the equation. The willingness to be grateful, the willingness to be clear.

    I feel that if I was to investigate now, it would be a reaction of fear. Fear of a bad life. Fear of suffering all the time.

    But I feel so hypocritical – I don’t deserve that anymore, I don’t even remember if I feel what I did once i.e that I believed so much in the benediction of Love. But I turned away. And those decisions I made when I was happy/free, they are the ones that I feel now make me regret, fear, lost choices. that I can no longer get back. Years I can no longer reclaim. Maybe I am just having a mid life crisis 🙂

    Thanks for your kindness, in any case.

    • Bob OHearn says:

      Self-inquiry is always appropriate. That is, really taking a good look at the person you believe yourself to be, and seeing if that is true, or more like an accumulation of thoughts and memories that you have come to believe amounts to who and what you are. I discuss it in a number of essays that you can find in the index, such as True Inquiry, Parts 1 & 2.

      Best wishes!

      • JAck (and not really as you know) says:

        Please help. .. Will I ever get out of this pit? I feel terrible.

      • Bob OHearn says:

        It sounds like a cliche, but nevertheless, just remember: everything changes. You will look back on this time, as if it were a vague memory. There is a lot of action on the screen, it seems like the protagonist is in peril, but then you realize: it is just a movie. You are not the character with which you have identified, and that you are OK. You are OK now, and you have always been OK. After all, it was just a movie, and someday you will realize that is all it ever was, a very compelling movie. Actually, if you go ahead and do the self-inspection, you can see that is true, even now.


      • JAck says:

        Thank you. How can someone not be affected eg if someone is losing a job or can’t pay a bill
        What use is ‘serenity’ or seeing the character? I don’t understand..


      • Bob OHearn says:

        You will have to discover the answer to that question yourself — it is not going to do you much benefit to rely on the experience of others as a substitute for your own direct experience, which is why I suggested you engage in self-inquiry and find out for yourself. Truly, that is the only way you are going to know.


  9. Bob OHearn says:

    No one suggested being without thought, only ceasing to identify with thoughts. For more, please see the essay “True Meditation”.

  10. Bob OHearn says:

    “In short, practicing gratitude seems to kick off a healthful, self-perpetuating cycle in your brain — counting your blessing now makes it easier to notice and count them later. And the more good you see in your life, the happier and more successful you’re likely to be.

    Or, as Jarrett sums up the research: “The more you practice gratitude, the more attuned you are to it and the more you can enjoy its psychological benefits.””

  11. Bob OHearn says:

    The past two decades have seen a flurry of research on gratitude, beginning in the early 2000s with a series of landmark papers by Robert Emmons, Michael McCullough, and other psychologists. In recent years, we’ve learned through severalscientificstudies that there’s a deep neural connection between gratitude and giving — they share a pathway in the brain — and that when we’re grateful, our brains become more charitable.

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