Driving down the road yesterday on one of those perfect autumn days, feeling like I could just explode with the joy of being alive, I had another ah-ha moment.
I have been using the terms gratitude and appreciation interchangeably for years and years. Suddenly it occured to me that they are not the same thing.
Gratitude, for me, is directed at something external. It's a big Thank You to whatever or whoever brings me something I really like.
Appreciation, on the other hand, is not directed anywhere. It doesn't thank anything or anyone. It just expands in all directions in the blissful enjoyment of the moment.
In a sense, I experience expansion when I appreciate a beautiful day, but gratitude brings contraction. Appreciation connects me with everything. Gratitude sets me outside of it ... separates me from the source of it, makes me smaller than it, identifies me as a witness but not a full participant.
This seems to be some sort of corollary to an insight I experienced earlier this year: Prayer is just a way of talking to the part of me that is bigger than my conscious mind and ego can identify with.
When I was a kid, prayer consisted of imploring some Magical Being to grant my wishes. In early adulthood, my concept of Divinity became decidedly female, and my prayers became songs and dances. At some point, the concept of a Deity stopped feeling real to me. I could no longer make that leap of faith. Praying seemed like sending messages into some kind of black hole, so I stopped bothering with it.
But it all made sense again when I realized that prayer was just talking to myself. I am the Deity. (And so are you, since we are all drops of the same divine ocean.) It took no leap of faith to realize that miracles had happened in my life -- intuitions, synchronicities, benevolent conspiracies -- that I could not explain with my rational mind.
I had no trouble acknowledging that part of me seemed to be operating beyond my conscious control, and was working behind the scenes for my highest good. It was easy to conceptualize myself as an iceberg, with just the tip of it being consciously aware of itself. Prayer became a vehicle ... a way to send and receive communication from the part that was submerged beneath my awareness.
For now, that works for me. It will be interesting to see what comes next.
For now, I don't know whom to thank for this glorious day. Luckily, appreciation needs no recipient. It's just a joyful expansion of connection and bliss.