The Heart as Hearth: Fanning the Divine Spark with Gratitude
The Fuji Declaration states: “We affirm the divine spark in the heart and mind of every human being and intend to live by its light in every sphere of our existence.”
How do we fan the divine spark in our own hearts and minds so that its light serves as a beacon to a better world? How do we feed the flame of the divine spark? Gratitude is a fuel that causes the flames in our hearts to dance.
Researchers have found that keeping a gratitude journal aided patients in combatting depression. Gratitude has healthy physical effects as well. It can lower the heart rate, open up the lungs to breathe more deeply, and cause the body to relax, releasing stress.
In a world where the message is so often “Get more, get more,” being grateful for what we have is an art to be cultivated. The more we are grateful, the more we find to be grateful for.
Gratitude is a hallmark of maturity. Researchers have found that young people tend to find happiness in extraordinary events or peak experiences. Mature people tend to savor and be grateful for life’s small pleasures: a hot cup of tea on a chilly day, the first robin in spring, a sweet song on the radio, or a hearty greeting from a friendly neighbor. The divine spark may burn more sedately in older people than young people, but it burns steadily and luminously.
Each grateful thought acts as a little wave of buoyancy that carries us through our lives. Gratitude buffers us from the bumps and bruises of daily living. It keeps the divine spark in each of us glowing.
Being thankful is a matter of perspective. Although no one has everything he or she wants, there are many unfortunates in the world who never know the comfort of a full belly after a good meal. In some countries, children die of diseases that simple sanitation techniques would prevent–techniques those of us in the developed world take for granted.
If, as the Fuji Declaration states, we “intend to live and act so as to enhance the quality of life and the well-being of all forms of life on the planet, recognizing that all living things in all their diversity are interconnected and are one,” we cannot do so without gratitude.
A life of gratitude means recognizing that we are indebted to the natural world. For example, we take air for granted, yet the oxygen of survival is freely, abundantly given. It supports and saves our lives every moment of every day. How often are we grateful for it? The great gift of water is another example. Water is so ordinary, so plain and ubiquitous. Yet it helps us in numerous ways each day. We drink it, bathe in it, cook with it, and wash our clothes with it. Freely given, water is vital to our survival too. We are indebted to the benevolence of nature.
Being thankful for all that surrounds us keeps our divine sparks burning steadily. We are able to meet others with more equanimity, peace, and calm. Our grateful hearts become hearths for others who are seeking warmth too.