Gratitude is considered by the Kabbalists as one of the most powerful spiritual characteristics we can develop. Gratitude is the ability to recognize the good and give thanks in any situation. We are taught to give thanks for what we perceive of good as well as what we perceive as bad.
This is a challenge. How do we give thinks when we are worried about paying our bills, losing our job, or grieving over the loss of a relationship or a loved one? There is a story of two sisters in a concentration camp during the holocaust who focused on gratitude as their spiritual path. They were in a blockhouse that was infested with fleas. They were in an impossible situation and the fleas were too much to bear. Not knowing what else to do, they gave thanks for the fleas. Over time the German soldiers avoided their blockhouse because of the fleas. It became a safe place to hold meetings and to hide. The infestation in the most unbearable situation was in the end, a gift.
We often focus on the negative in our lives and ask “why me?” How interesting that we forget to give thanks for the everyday gifts we receive, and ask “why me?” when life is good. Why should I be blessed with a warm and safe house and friends who care about me? Why am I blessed with good health when others suffer? Why do I have so many gifts? We are warm and safe and dry. We have food and hot water. Stop and ask yourself, why am I gifted in this way? And then follow this “why me” with a profound thank you.
Expressing gratitude in the face of life challenges can be difficult. And yet regardless of our beliefs or practices, it is the foundation of spiritual life. For one week practice saying “thank you” throughout the day, especially in those instances that you perceive as negative. See how those events and your life change as your focus shifts to gratitude.