In the Kabbalah, one of the ways that a person develops his or her character is through taking on “middot” (spiritual qualities). The process involves that of taking a positive moral attribute, focusing on it consistently and incorporating it consciously into daily life. By actively working with a particular attribute over a period of time, one not only begins to resonate with it on deeper and deeper levels, but is gradually able to assimilate it into their being and translate it into their way of life.
One of the most important attributes that a person can possess in life that is essential to spiritual development and the service of the divine is that of gratitude. To gain an appropriate understanding of gratitude, one needs to realize that gratitude is actually an interplay between the forces of Hesed and Gevurah (love and courage).
In the Tree of Life, the level of Hesed is understood to be love in the full, universal sense. This is the level of complete expansiveness and embrace. The counterpart of Hesed, the level of Gevurah, courage, is the realm of judgment, discernment and inner thought.
The interaction between the two levels, that of Hesed and that of Gevurah is the reality that produces relationship and generates energy.
In Kabbalah, there is a very intimate connection between energy and relationship. When you have two forces that stand face to face to each other in a relationship, energy is produced. When energy is generated, it fuels the relationship. When Hesed, love, expands outward it must be accepted, contained and held in order for it to find expression and fulfillment. This is the function of Gevurah, inner focus. One loves in order to be loved. One is supported by being supportive. Thus, there is a genuine reciprocity.
The quality of gratitude has dimensions in both realms. Gratitude originates in Gevurah and is expressed in Hesed. It is a process from inner to outer. Gratitude is a response to goodness that has been received. For example, a person that you know realizes that you are having a hard time and brings you a gift to cheer you up. The act is unsolicited and very welcome. It is well thought out and coming from a place of the heart.
The appropriate response to such a heartfelt act is gratitude. From the level of Gevurah, we recognize the nature of what is being offered to us. We accept the kindness and we internalize it. If we have cultivated the quality of gratitude, it gets expressed through Hesed, which encompasses the dimensions of appreciation, gratefulness and joy. Because this individual has reached out to us, gratitude is the means by which we extend our light and love back in response.
The energy being formed by an act of loving kindness, extended, accepted and appreciated nurtures a relationship between the two parties involved. It bonds them together. There is, in essence, a great interdependency between the giver and the receiver. For an act of love and caring to take place, it must be generated on one side by genuine concern and received with heartfelt sincerity, on the other.
An act of love is the extension of self, coming from the heart level. Gratitude is the opening of the heart by the recipient. The common denominator here is what is happening in the heart. The transmission of love and concern on the part of the giver is an intentionally directed expansiveness, originating at the level of Hesed. The recognition and acceptance of that love on the part of the recipient is the acknowledgment that takes place within Gevurah.
True acknowledgment of the good we receive comes in the form of gratefulness. Through gratitude, we recognize the goodness and the light that is being directed toward us. We are giving the love sent to us a validity first by holding it, then by internalizing it and finally, by being truly grateful for it.
Expressing gratitude is a very primal and necessary quality in life. When we express how grateful we truly are, we are moving the energy of the love and light we’ve received back to Hesed, its origin. We are bringing the energy full circle. To contain and accept the love being offered us is not enough, because relationships are reciprocal and the reciprocity is what creates energy.
Love received, but not reciprocated because of a lack of gratitude, loses a fair proportion of its strength. Energy without support diminishes. That is the law of resistance. However, love that is sent to back toward its source because it is being reinforced by the light of heartfelt gratitude is magnified exponentially.
This is so, because without gratitude the light is received but not enhanced. No energy is being added to the original impulse. Hence the energy is constrained and diminished. When one is truly grateful and the gratitude comes from the heart, the energy of the recipient is added to the original energy. The two are bound together.
What happens is, the act of responding with gratitude draws on one’s own energy, melds it to the love received, thereby magnifying the light and it’s force as the energy is being returned to source.
So, in the cycle of love, gratitude and response, the movement is from the level of Hesed to Gevurah and back to Hesed. This cyclical movement of energy creates a bond of a relationship between giver and receiver. The bond, in response, energizes the relationship. The whole gestalt is enhanced. Both parties in the relationship benefit.
A relationship has to exist between the two in order for the original concern and love to be directed toward the recipient, as well as for the recipient to be in a position to receive the energy. The energy created by the response of gratitude deepens the connection between both parties. It is good to care. It is good to receive the love. It is good to strengthen the love with the warmth and humility of gratitude.
This cycle of light, moving from Hesed to Gevurah and back, deepens the relationship between giver and receiver through a process that intensifies the energy that was set into motion. Love, strengthened through recognition and gratitude, upon its return, fortifies the bonds of relationship; the result for both individuals involved being personal growth and spiritual evolution. For as a result of this cycle and the accompanying process, the levels of Hesed (loving kindness) and Gevurah (strength) have been significantly enlarged in both parties.
In relationship, what happens with one party has a direct effect upon the other and their response, in turn, creates a certain unity of experience between them. The overall effect of their interaction, specifically when it is cyclical, impacts both parties and frequently in a similar manner.
This is particularly true in relationships in which the intention is outreach and bonding. The interaction between acts of love and concern and the response of gratitude, both magnifies the energy involved, as well as produces pronounced growth in the areas of Hesed, extension of self toward others and Gevurah, self understanding.
Understand that through the force of gratitude, both Hesed and Gevurah are fortified and stimulated to develop, simultaneously, within each of the individuals separately and within the relationship itself, in general. That is the great power and benefit of cultivating and incorporating within yourself the ability to be consistently grateful.
March 3, 2011