I believe gratitude is about being whole, a kind of circle of life.
When one feels, or maybe it really is thinks, that we have been given something and our response is to accept it with presence and with the realization that our world, our friend, our family, a stranger thinks that we are worthy of such a gift and we acknowledge the gift with a humble thought of gratefulness, we have completed the circle of gratitude, we become whole.
Let me explain. Have you ever received something, like a beautiful morning, the song of a bird, the hello in an elevator, a smile passing by…and not really stopped to acknowledge these gifts? Yes, you have. I have too.
Notice that none of these things I mentioned are actually material things. We take all kinds of things for granted, and that is the antithesis of gratitude, and this unawareness hinders us from becoming whole.
I think that gratitude has a duality, at times it is completely innate and at times we must learn to be grateful. Innate gratitude occurs in babies, animals, plants; it is a natural act of realizing dependency and being grateful that our needs are being taken care of in spite of not having advanced cognitive development. Learned gratitude comes from education, culture, experience and awareness; where cognition does play a role and makes us choose how we react to receiving gifts.
The feeling of wholeness arrived at through gratitude is one of joy. When we are able to give of ourselves to others because of this feeling of wholeness, it exemplifies the circle, the whole.
We give; we receive…the cycle repeats itself beautifully.