How thanking awakens us


I know that it’s been too long since I have written a blog. To tell you the truth, I have been caught up in that vicious cycle of giving myself a hard time about this and then not feeling inspired. I was giving myself all sorts of excuses like the busyness of the year, lots of travel, feeling pressured with other tasks. None of this rang true really because I love writing blogs.

I have been reminded of the power of blogs through reading those of my students in my current Summer School unit, Gratitude in Education. A regular weekly blog is part of their assessment. I have been so inspired by the depth these students go to in their inquiry about the role of gratitude in their lives, and their honest and creative exploration of the outcomes and challenges. You might like to read two (of many) wonderful examples here:

There’s nothing like the reflective space gifted to us at the end of a year to re-assess. I realised that although I was wanting to write about gratitude, I wasn’t approaching the actual blog-writing process with gratitude. Sadly, this applied to the way I was approaching many of my other tasks as well. I wasn’t taking my own advice of applying ‘A State of Preparedness ’ – reflection before action and approaching the task with an inner attitude of gratitude.

When I started to think of all the things I could be grateful for about writing a blog – the physical capacity and wellness to do so; my eyesight; the peace and beauty of my writing space at home; the peace and beauty of Tasmania; the awesomeness of writing about gratitude; my inspiration (you, my readers) – I became energised and motivated. So here we are.

This also got me thinking about how gratitude awakens our energy. To be thankful for what one has (or in the case of ‘A State of Preparedness’, for what one is about to receive) connects us more fully to both what we have and to others. It goes beyond just thinking about others as being good or nice, and allows us to celebrate that goodness with our heart.

Gratitude stops us on our very busy track and brings us more fully into the present moment. We move more into a sense of the blessedness, the giftedness, the intricate arrangements of another person or thing. We thus open ourselves up to the joy, wonder, awe and mystery of it all – to a sense of meaning that is far deeper. We step out of ourselves and we connect with another, or others who made this moment, this opportunity come into being.

As Michael Brown says in his brilliant book The Presence Process: “Gratefulness is the one single marker we can depend on as an indicator of how present we are in our experience”.

We can know this by recognising what happens if we are not approaching our lives with gratitude. Before we know it, a sense of entitlement, or taking things for granted, resentment, or self-judgement creeps in. This not only robs us of our gratitude, but consumes us and robs us of the present moment. Then, no matter how much sleep we get or organic food we eat, we can’t respond to the world in an awake state.

Is it as easy as replacing one state with another? To think in this way could be dangerous and not very authentic. It takes a conscious effort to choose our state, our inner attitude, and then reflect on the outcomes. If we don’t go through this reflective process we miss out on the energy and motivation to choose gratitude at the beginning of our day.

Our own experience of the difference gratitude makes is what is going to keep us vigilant about the conscious choice we make. Just reading about it in a blog or book is not going to be nearly as effective.

If I wasn’t experiencing how energised I feel while writing this blog as a result of applying ‘A State of Preparedness’, I might forget to apply this to my next writing task. We need to have a sense of what this feels like, what it looks like, how to hold it at the depths of our being, and to be brave enough to expect it of ourselves.

Being grateful for the experience amplifies the awareness a hundredfold and so has an even greater motivating effect. It also serves to ward off those other states that are lurking around to rob us of our gratitude when we are not looking, when we are not awake.

I hope that your gratitude practice assists you to have a very wakeful 2018,



Brown, M. (2015). The Presence Process. Vancouver: Namaste Publishing

Dr Kerry Howells is an author, award-winning educator and experienced researcher.

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