This Thanksgiving, show your gratitude for life’s difficult, painful challenges

Nov 18, 2019 | 2 comments

I was down at my quebrada (mountain stream) working to rebuild a stone wall that recent rains had washed away. I could have been annoyed that hundreds of hours of my work had been erased in a matter of a few days, the river rising to great heights. But I have learned a valuable lesson in my life, based on a core spiritual principle. This lesson is that the universe is ALWAYS conspiring for my highest good. The key word, highlighted, is always. No exceptions. Our personal journey of transformation and awakening is wholly dependent on this principle, as is our happiness and peace of mind.

Eckhart Tolle describes “a new earth” as the awakened consciousness that is comprised of three levels. The first level is that of acceptance, described well by the Serenity Prayer (Reinhold Neibur): “God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This prayer is key to recovery, used by anyone involved in the 12-Step program. So acceptance is the foundation of the new earth consciousness and what I call Conscious Living. We do not choose to hold onto resentments of any kind.

Eckhart Tolle

But the second level, appreciation or gratitude, is so much more powerful. Here is the beginning of true transformation. I offer “gratitude meetings” where the work is the expression of gratitude, and here again there are arbitrarily 3 levels. The first level is expressing gratitude for the easy things, our health, our children, etc. The second level of gratitude is toward the people, places, and things in our life that offered us certain challenges. But we came through the challenges learning important lessons that served us as we matured.

The third level of gratitude is to find a way to be grateful for the most difficult and painful relationships and events of our lives. Often this takes the guidance and support of a community.

There is a powerful line from A Course in Miracles that says: “The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love.” Here is the grist of a gratitude meeting, exploring these dark places that might still exist in our minds and in our hearts. In my past doing workshops on this process I came up with a little word play.  I would write two words on the blackboard/whiteboard: scared and sacred.  And I shared that the simple conversion of these two words came when we learned to “C” differently. Marianne Williamson, who recently came into the national spotlight as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, became popular as a writer, interpreting the teachings of A Course in Miracles.  Williamson wrote in her bestseller “A Return to Love:” “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that frightens us the most.”

Marianne Williamson

A poignant example of this is our general fear of death. Most who deal with this fear can bring acceptance to the inevitable, perhaps using some version of faith in a Higher Power or heavenly realm in the afterlife to assuage their fear. But how many of us could actually experience a “reversal” in our thinking, see our death as sacred and not something to be afraid of. To bring appreciation or gratitude to our experience of death is a remarkable gift and the essence of my Conscious Dying process. And this brings us to the third level of a new earth and Conscious Living, enthusiasm. How can we live our lives with this powerful energy guiding us in our daily practice? And how can we bring enthusiasm to the most sacred event of our lives, our death?

Back to our spiritual principle, that the universe is ALWAYS conspiring for our highest good. I know that with the proper training and preparation our personal death is guaranteed to be magnificent. For many, it will be the first time that they truly experience the Light to which Marianne Williamson refers above. But there exists that distinct possibility, one that I know from personal experience, that our complete transformation and awakening to this Light can come well before our death. And what becomes of our life as a result? We have literally created heaven on earth. This is the promise of the new earth, an awakened consciousness that is marked by unstoppable enthusiasm (literally that we are filled with God or Light).

This Thanksgiving consider making your world different by making everything the same.  Open your mind and heart to embracing this spiritual principle that can allow you to transform any remaining Darkness into Light, and in this way to release your world from bondage, and just maybe you will fulfill your highest function. This function is simply to serve as a conduit through which God/Light, what Eckhart Tolle calls “the unmanifested,” can be expressed. Your acceptance, your gratitude, and your enthusiasm are the highest gift that you can bring into your life and your world.

Louis Bourgeois lives outside of Cuenca with his wife and baby. He teaches courses in Conscious Living and Conscious Dying and is currently developing the Oasis, an eco-resort. He can be contacted at

Louis Bourgeois

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