The Hijacking of Gratitude and Its Rescue

March 5, 2019
The new-age prophets, gurus and aspirants tell us to “be grateful”.
The Church tells us to “be grateful for what God has given you”. The Eastern mystics say “Practice gratitude”. Be grateful your parents tell you. Be grateful for your “blessings”, and for your “abundance” we are told. Be grateful for your demeaning job (if you are “lucky” enough to have one) and your debt. What they are really saying is just take it. Don’t doubt it, don’t examine it, and most certainly don’t question it.
Just take it and be nice while you are about it. What we are being force fed is not nourishing, it is not loving, virtuous, or anything else even approaching integrity of any kind. But be grateful. There is something wrong with this picture – in the form of what could be called “default gratitude”.
We are living in the time of the “upside-down”. War is peace, credit is debt, sustainability is wholesale destruction, integration is genocide, it goes on and on … Our very language has become a weapon that is used against us. We have been so terrorised that we are afraid to even use gender correct pronouns. Politeness has become a form of abuse. But be grateful for that. When we are told to be grateful –  we are really being told something very different, something sinister and disempowering. And it has nothing to do with what real gratitude is. It is its opposite. 
If you are not grateful, or at least displaying gratitude, then you are not playing the game. We are talking about a cloned version of gratitude. Compulsory gratitude. Default gratitude. Weaponised gratitude. The commodified new-age version of the practice of gratitude. 
What they are really saying is that this dreadful and corrupt situation that you find yourself in is “god-given” or it is the result of your lack of faith, or your lack of positive thought, or a previous life, or your sin. Your financial problems are your fault – you didn’t train, or get a degree, you missed the housing bubble, or you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But be grateful for that. When the good stuff happens it is due to a “higher” power, an external force – so be grateful.
When stuff goes wrong you will be encouraged to believe that it is due to some error, wrong doing or deficiency on your part. So show some gratitude in the hope that the gods of supply and demand will notice your passive good behaviour and reward it. When we delve deeply into it, we are being trained to be good little children, to be polite, to say please and thank you, no matter what. And to not question what is being done to us. What exactly are we being driven to be grateful for? That this is as good as it gets? That this is as good as it can get?  That appears to be the message.
The spiritual thought police are just one of the many tentacle arms of the global system of oppression, control and extraction. The spiritual thought police are now an enforcement arm of the global corporate structure. It is very easy to see it in these contemporary times. The pyramidal, top-down management systems that are wreaking havoc upon this beautiful planet are now apparent in the popular “spiritual” traditions.
As each new-age trend arrives it quickly becomes monetised, and in so doing has no choice but to adopt the global, corporate economic model. The medieval tithing systems of the church are now manifesting in the new-age spiritual movements. It may not look like tithing on a mass scale, as you buy in with your credit card via a groovy feel-good app. Pay up! It is a great way to show your gratitude. How many times have you been told that money is gratitude? Don’t think too much about it. Don’t question it – you might look ungrateful. 
Sadly, the word “gratitude” has been worn out. It has become the bulk bargain marketing catch-word that we accept unquestioningly – and we feel a deep sense of guilt and shame when we are not grateful – when we don’t feel grateful, and when we don’t express gratitude. The word “gratitude” has been reduced to a faux concept, a cheap knock-off copy of of the real thing. 
Real gratitude is a thing of heart-felt, tangible beauty. It is organic and spontaneous. It is genuine and it has integrity. We know when we are grateful because we feel it in our very beings. Gratitude is a Human energy that arises spontaneously in response to states of well being. Gratitude is not a commodity that can be merchandised, marketed or programmed. Gratitude is a natural and powerful aspect of our Human natures. Gratitude can be “practiced” – but the practice is just that – practice in the form of preparation for the real thing. 
So we are talking about two very different things – two forms of gratitude, and two types of practice. We practice actual authentic gratitude so that we can create a divine and sacred place for it within our very beings. So that we can know it intimately and have relationship directly with it.
We practice gratitude to make a home for it within our beings. We don’t practice gratitude to get stuff or to make things happen. We don’t practice gratitude to create programmed and unconditional states of surrender and supplication. Surrender and supplication only serve to disempower us.
Happily, there is a healing alternative that can be practiced on the road to recovery – the recovery of real gratitude. That alternative is called the practice of “appreciation”. When we are not feeling real gratitude, we can practice real and genuine appreciation. We can practice appreciation under any circumstances. The Toltecs of ancient Mexico thought of themselves as “artists of spirit”.
They saw themselves as the artist creators of their own realities. Artists all have one thing in common and that is a sense of aesthetics. Aesthetics can be about beauty – but it is much more than that. It is about what “works” compositionally and what doesn’t – and that changes from situation to situation. It is about context, functionality, purpose, proportion …. the list is infinite. We can have an aesthetic appreciation of a thing, a place, a person, a situation. Anything.
You can appreciate your dentist. While your dentist may cause discomfort, you can appreciate that tooth being saved. You can appreciate your inner calm in the most trying and testing situations. You can even appreciate the opportunity to test yourself in trying situations. Genuine, heart felt gratitude may come later. Yay! Thats beautiful and something to be really grateful for.
Really grateful for. 
The reward for gratitude, if we should need one, is gratitude itself. Gratitude in itself, holds no longing for such matters

© 2019 Murray Hill

Murray Hill is an artist and writer who produces work around spiritual themes. He is an initiate of the Toltec mystery school as taught by Don Miguel Ruiz. He is also a Seer in the Celtic tradition. In 2004 he experienced a life changing moment in the ancient Mexican Toltec capital of Teotihuacan, which brought a lifetime of spontaneous spiritual breakouts into coherent form.

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