We are told all the time that we should be thankful or have “gratitude”. But what does that mean “to have gratitude”. Gratitude is more than being thankful. It comes from deep within our hearts and spirit. In the Native American tradition it is practiced every day and at every ceremony. In the sweat lodge, there is often a part of the ceremony where we express aloud how we have gratitude. We do this because it shows a deep appreciation to the Universe for the things that we have. I am sometimes asked why the Universe, the gods, etc. need us to express our gratitude if the Universe has an infinite amount of power. I like to think of it this way, when a loved one gives you a gift simply because of your friendship it feels very special. Not because you needed something in return but because it came from the heart.

It is believed in some cultures that having gratitude opens up energy connections between yourself and the divinity, or higher power, that you honor. In the Nordic tradition, there is a saying that “a gift demands a gift.” What this means is that when the gods give you something you must give them an offering in return. In the Native American tradition when you go to a ceremony, it is expected that you give the facilitator an offering of tobacco as a sign of respect and also as gratitude for being able to attend the ceremony. This helps maintain the energetic balance within the community.

There are many ways to give gratitude. You many certainly give offerings such as tobacco to the energies that you honor. You can also give to the community that feels right to you. You can give cash donations to spiritual and environmental groups that you believe in. You may also donate food and cloths to shelters and pantries. In my personal spiritual practice, everyday I take a moment to connect with the energies I honor and say aloud all the things I have gratitude for, then I give a physical offering of some kind as well as  Reiki or energy healing to those who are in need.

When we open our hearts and energies to the Universe and those in need we open ourselves to give and receive blessings. This keeps our  energies in balance and helps us maintain happiness and well-being.