The Tree of Gratitude: Part II

In Part I of this meditation, you discovered your "seed" of gratitude--that is, the place in your heart where you are grateful for no particular thing; rather, you are grateful for just being.

In this second of four meditations, you will till the soil of your spirit in which you will plant this seed.

You may wish to discuss this meditation in conversation with a spiritual director.


II. Sowing the Seed of Gratitude

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
— Matthew 5:5

Jesus tells us what we need to be happy: poverty, humility, mercy, purity of heart. Yet we do not want these things. Instead, we chase after things that are transient, things that will not last, things that will return to dust.

Yet, we will find our true happiness--our beatitude--when we plant the seed of gratitude in the rich, healthy soil of love.

Gaze

Center yourself by spending a few moments gazing at Vincent van Gogh's painting The Sower (1888). Just look at the painting without analyzing it; instead, just appreciate the beauty. Let your breathing become calm, smooth, and long. When we behold beauty, we get a glimpse of God.

 
The Sower (Vincent van Gogh, 1888) from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

The Sower (Vincent van Gogh, 1888) from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

 

When you feel ready, open your heart to this parable from the Gospel of the Matthew. Read it slowly, intently.

A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matthew 13:1-8)

Let the words of Jesus sink into your heart. What words or phrases have meaning for you? Reread the Gospel. Which words does the Holy Spirit point out to you? Reread the Gospel one more time, and respond with gratitude.

Consider

Begin by gathering the seed. Recall all the things for which you are grateful this day--imagine them in front of you. Let the images drift away, but allow the feeling of gratitude remain. Soon, all you should feel is gratitude, not for anything in particular, but for just being.

This is the seed of gratitude.

Now, gently turn your attention toward your desires. You desire many things--you desire to be happy, you may desire to avoid pain. You may desire health, you may desire great wealth. Let these desires come to your mind. Do not judge them--just take note of them.

As these desires come to mind, settle on the three desires that you think will bring you the most happiness.

Imagine these desires as three different gardens.

Now return to your seed--that feeling of deep gratitude, your thankfulness for just being. What happens when you cast that seed into each garden:

  • Does your sense of gratitude become a sense of entitlement; does it become a feeling that you deserve to be happy? The soil in this garden is hard, packed dirt.
  • Or do you feel a sense of anxiety? Is your sense of gratitude choked out by worry? The soil in this garden is rocky.
  • Or is your sense of gratitude deepened? Do you find your heart welling up with love, with a sense of calm and peace? The soil in this garden is dark, rich, and filled with nutrients. This is the soil in which you want to sow your seed of gratitude.

If you find that your gardens only have hard, packed dirt or rocky soil, take some time tilling it. Turn the soil over by identifying your attachments to these desires--that is, why do you cling to them as if you could not live without them? What do you need to be at peace--that is whole, complete, and in harmony with all creation?

Contemplate

Sit quietly and comfortably in the garden wit the dark, rich soil. You are rooted in this soil--this is the soil from which God created you, the soil into which God breathed life.

You may wish to repeat a mantra to help root you in this soil. Inhale: "It is all good;" exhale: "It is all very good."

As you rest in this garden, let any thought or distraction that comes into your mind be. Do not engage it by analyzing it or judging it. Just as the wind that blows over the earth, let the thoughts blow over you. Gently free your attention of them by returning to the soil.

When you are ready to leave this garden, gently return you attention to your body, beginning with your toes and moving up to the top of your head. Let your attention expand into the room your are in and then out into the larger world.

Say a silent prayer of gratitude for spending time with the Lord in this garden.

Imitate

As you go about your week, taking the time at the end of each day to pray this examen:

  • Recall that you are in the presence of God and rest in the presence.
  • Pray for freedom, to see through the eyes of love and not with the eyes fear, cynicism, or pride.
  • Review your day. Pay attention to your desires. Where did these desires lead you? Did they lead to a feeling of pride and entitlement? Did they lead you to fear and anxiety? Or, did they lead you to a place of gratitude, generosity, and peace?
  • Talk to Jesus about your desires. Imagine meeting Jesus, not as Savior, not as Lord, but as a friend. What would you share with him? What does he tell you about your desire for happiness?
  • Look forward to the next day. How will you bring happiness to those you meet?

May the Lord bless you with health, harmony, happiness, and peace.