Already two months into 2011! For most of us, the holidays, the New Year’s resolutions are but a distant memory. Distant from the gratitude that abounds through the end of the year and persists as we welcome and greet the New Year. We recall fondly that time when gratitude flowed freely – the way we showed it through our smiles, our gift giving, the opening of our homes. We let down our armor, put restentments and petty differences aside and allow ourselves to feel connected. In those moments, in that time, we believe this thankful continence will continue indefinitely. As we step into the New Year, we find it quickly dissipates. We discover that our gratitude may have been “obligational gratitude”. This simplistic, surface gratitude carries us through this sometimes challenging time of year. Many times this seasonal gratitude dissolves quickly as it is wrapped in expectation, in clinging, grasping, attachment – far distant from heartfelt gratitude.

Gratitude is not something to be forced or coerced. It is a natural rising up from your center when you feel connected, when you know you are supported. Those very things are what bring it about during the holidays – connecting, feeling loved, giving, sharing. Gratitude does not mean smiling and being happy all the time. It does mean being content. Content not just when all is well, but even when all is not well. Gratitude which arises from our heart allows us to know that, no matter what, we are connected, we are loved.

Gratitude becomes distant when we are in expectation or not honoring our feelings. In that same way, our expectations wrap us, constrict us, keep us taped up, held tightly, locked up. A deeper look allows us to see that gratitude may be wrapped in our fear, sadness, loneliness, disappointment, resentment. Our gratitude is like the gift that is wrapped again and again in the larger box, until you get to the small box. Debra Adele, in the Yamas and the Niyamas, says that the boxes hold “our experience, our conditioning, our belief systems.” That wrapping is how we identify ourselves; that wrapping is what we believe to be true; that wrapping is our preferences and dislikes, our fears. As we begin unwrapping we start the journey

toward our center, our heart.

To bring our heartfelt gratitude to the surface, we begin unwrapping what is at the surface, the first gift. Sometimes the mere thought of unwrapping brings excitement to begin. Many times this excitement quickly turns to exasperation realizing all that we need to move through to reach the center, to get to the gift at the end. We might become impatient. Our mind will say “oh forget it”, “this is ridiculous and too much work”. Sometimes there is a lot of tape and the paper does not come off neatly, but rather in little pieces – it is messy!

Our unwrapping, no matter how messy, how tedious, how much there is to uncover, leads us to our center. Once unwrapped we find that true gratitude is a cultivation of spirit. It arises naturally at the heart space. It is in our open heartedness that we find connection, we find love. That seemingly small gift that when unwrapped, unlocks the abundance, the flow of peace and deep heartfelt gratitude!

The gift, my friends, is in the messiness, in all of our experiences. We must, though, look at each gift individually, each expectation, each belief, to see what it offers us. As we receive that gift, that learning experience, that opening, we gently move to the next. We continue until we find ourselves at our center, until we feel a sense of stillness and peace. Then life happens, fear creeps in, resentment arises and we begin the unwrapping again. A beautiful circle.

The gifts are always there, leading us to a gratitude that is lasting, sustaining. Let’s all pick up our gifts and beginning the unwrapping together.