Counselor's Corner: Gratitude and inner freedom

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Gratefulness opens the heart. I have discovered lately that when I look at something or someone, I express a feeling of gratitude. In everything and everyone, there is an energy that comes from God. Everything in life is a gift. Every person is also a gift. If there is a God that started everything then that presence of God’s energy must be in everything and everyone. Otherwise it would not exist. As I was looking out my window, I noticed the trees, the grass, the buds, the many people biking and walking on the Macomb trail across the street from us. As I looked at everything and everyone, I breathed a prayer of gratitude for them. It was amazing what happened to me. I began to realize those words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “Earth’s filled with heaven and every common bush afire with God.” My sense of gratitude quickly helped me look at everything I see with a sense of gratefulness. It was like magic happened and I could see goodness everywhere. Psychologically and spiritually, gratitude opens the mind and heart to discover goodness everywhere and in everyone.

I began to realize that gratitude for everything I see and everyone I see opens my heart and my mind to experience life in a deeper manner. I began to experience a sense of inner freedom. Gratitude takes me out of negative thinking. I can choose to withdraw from feeling negative toward others. When I read messages on Facebook, I often see so many posts that I can either joyfully agree with or negatively disagree with. But either way, there will be some criticism of others or judgments about others. No one changes in life because I think they should change. I am learning that if I am thankful for everyone, it becomes easy to withdraw from negative thinking and criticism about others. Gratitude helps me to see the goodness in others and helps me to see the goodness in everything.

 Gratitude helps me to experience God in a deeper manner. It also helps me to be kind and loving toward others in my thinking and in my actions. Try to go through a whole day without criticizing anyone. It is very difficult because usually most of us will find someone whom we can criticize. Try to go through the whole day without embracing negative thinking about others. It can seem almost impossible. Lately, I think I have found a solution not to engage in negative thinking and negative words and action. When I am thankful for everyone and everything, I began to see and experience goodness in people and goodness in everything. I don’t have to kill a moth that enters the house. I can see the moth with a new sense of goodness and gently escort the moth outside.

Francis of Assis had a mantra that said “My God and All things.” This simply meant that he could see he presence of God in all of creation. It is such a simple thought but so accurate.

I never realized that gratefulness is so simple and yet so profound at the same time. Try one hour and even one day looking at everything you see and everyone you see with a sense of gratitude. It is difficult to feel empty or depressed when a person stays in an “attitude of gratitude.” I can be grateful for the shirt I am wearing, the shoes I am putting on my feet in the morning, the chair I am sitting in, the computer I am using as I type this article. I can be grateful for every person I see and it makes no difference if I like them or not. But when I become grateful, I begin to see goodness in people that I may have been feeling negative toward in some way. It lifts me up and puts me in a positive direction and a positive attitude. When I am grateful, negative thinking and actions seem to vanish.

 This is a simple act: be grateful. In simple acts, profound results can happen. I notice that grateful people seem to be happy. There is a simple joy and peace that pours out of grateful people. About two years ago I attended a gathering in Ford Stadium with more than 60,000 people. We gathered to celebrate the memory of a very simple and grateful man, Fr. Solanus Casey OFM Cap who died in 1957. He had a mantra that he lived by, “Thank God, ahead of time.” This simple, grateful man saw goodness everywhere.

Gratefulness is the way to inner peace and serenity. Even if I did not believe in God, gratefulness would bring me into a deeper union with the goodness of God and all of creation. It would also bring me into contact with the best version of myself. I now have a simple solution if ever I might feel sad or frustrated: look at something or someone and give thanks. When I am grateful, everything will work together for more goodness because it will be what I am seeing and what I am experiencing. Gratitude brings goodness into the present moment.

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Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: Fredcavi@yahoo.com and his website is fredthecounselor.com.



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