The unhealed healer wants gratitude from his brothers, but he is not grateful to them. That is because he thinks he is giving something to them, and is not receiving something equally desirable in return (T-7.V.7:1-2).
This concept of relationships – giving to get and needing to come out ahead in the bargain – is very stressful. Yet it is also hard to see, especially when it is happening, and it is also hard to relinquish. In the first place, we are habituated to it. And in the second, when we question it, it is seductively logical and sound.
For example, if we sit down at the table and there is only one slice of pie, then you and I cannot both eat it. We are going to have to share it. Or fight over it. Or one of us will say “you eat it” and feel secretly pleased with our righteousness, or bitter that we always have to be the one to take the high road.
In terms of bodies, and in terms of the world bodies inhabit, there is really no way around that outcome.
It is very hard to be consistently and genuinely grateful in that scenario! In truth, we don’t want to be grateful because we are winning at someone else’s expense. And we do want a gratefulness that is not conditional on satisfying the body’s wants and perceived needs. As Bill Thetford once said, there has to be another way.
It is helpful to practice gratefulness, even when we are not feeling it – perhaps especially when we are not feeling it. A focus on gratitude when it seems that things are not working out, can be instructive. We are sick, we can’t pay the bills, someone we love has died, the car won’t start, the rose bush didn’t bloom . . .
When I say “practice” gratitude, what I really mean is simply to notice it. If we can’t find it, it is only because we are actively hiding it, which is a childish (but effective) form of resistance. When attention seeks gratefulness, gratefulness will be found. Why? Because the mind that seeks it is the mind that knows that where it is. And gratitude wants to be found. Gifts always do.
In this way we learn that gratitude does not need to be linked to anything external. There is nothing wrong with being grateful for a sunny day or a friendly email or a homemade molasses cookie or whatever, but gratitude is hardly so limited. It’s like the sky. It’s just there. It’s always there, but we don’t always notice it. Gratitude for what works is like a grain of sand. Gratitude for gratitude’s sake is the whole desert and then some.
When gratitude becomes us, it naturally extends itself. When I am grateful, I am relieved of the drive to get and become. So I am more available to those around me. I am more present and less judgmental. I see what is, rather than what I would have it be. I am not bent on getting something from you. I am not cultivating some gift by which I hope to elicit a certain response from you. I am not dwelling on what you haven’t said or haven’t given.
It is so much easier to be in relationship this way.
Gratitude ends desire’s rampages and the result is life-giving stillness. When we are in the presence of a brother or sister’s gratitude, it is like a weight is lifted from our shoulders. It is like a giant breath too long held is released. This gentle clarity is our reality. This lovingkindness is our home.
The mind we share is shared by all our brothers, and as we see them truly they will be healed. Let your mind shine with mine upon their minds, and by our gratitude to them make them aware of the light in them . . . This is true communion with the Holy Spirit, Who sees the altar of God in everyone, and by bringing it to your appreciation, He calls upon you to love God and His Creation (T-7.V.11:2-3, 6).
Our practice of A Course in Miracles – our learning how to heal and be healed – is enriched when we give attention to gratitude. In particular, we can begin to loosen the notion that it is contingent on anything external. It does not spring into existence because of circumstances the ego deems fortuitous. It is the essence of what we are in truth.