Sitting at dinner, for the first time, with new friends in the college cafeteria, I was floored.

Having grown up in a family where silence was expected, especially at meal time, I was ill prepared me for this moment. Everyone was talking, comparing their experiences of the first day at college, laughing and joking. I felt torn between judging my new peers for their noise, envy for their confidence and feeling inadequate for holding back.

This initiation into adult life happened before my world opened up as I learned how to heal deep early wounds, but it shocked me just enough for the insight to dawn; that ‘I’ was not so much the problem, it was more that my training in social behavior was very different from that of most of my contemporaries.

Loving who we are = doorway to gratitude
Feeling comfortable in my own skin was not a feeling I’d been familiar with, and my dislike of life. My inner disapproval made it hard to feel appreciation for milestones that others considered success; like graduating from college, getting job offers, or making my way in the world.

Another 10 years or so went by before the key to loving myself presented itself; which gradually turned a solid dislike of myself, into a compassionate and genuine appreciation of who I am at my core.

I discovered that the capacity to experience gratitude begins with dropping self judgment, and loving who we are. Warts and all. When we are thankful for what we turn away from, as well as what we move towards, our appreciation is no longer determined by having, or being, what we judge to be desirable, or likable. Our gratitude arises naturally out of our fundamental ability to BE thankful.

Expand gratitude
The popular gratitude practice of thinking about one thing to be grateful for, and then another, and another; is a like a flower in bud. The feeling of gratitude that develops is real, but not fully mature.

We cannot be both the experiencer – the sense of ‘the me that is grateful’, and what is experienced – the thing we are grateful for – without splitting our heart. A heart split in two looses the ability to be grateful for everything; the good and the bad, the highs and the lows.

We come fully alive when we allow our heart to be unconditionally grateful. Grateful for what’s ugly and for what’s beautiful. This kind of gratitude is radical. It’s a revolutionary kind of thankfulness which fosters an atmosphere of love that melts barriers, prejudices and hatred – towards self and others. For this we can be grateful.

For the flowering of all inclusive gratitude, sit with this simple practice:

  • Think of 1-2 things you feel grateful for, like the ability to curl your toes, or the smell of clean sheets.
  • Take the first tiny feeling of gratitude and feel this thankfulness for no reason; let the object of gratitude go.
  • Summon the feeling of unconditional gratitude for no reason often – especially when you wake, and when you go to sleep.


Share this post: