I have been spending some time recently playing with the idea of polarities, continuum’s, and trying to see the “middle ground” in my head, trying to get a grasp on developing a meaningful practice when establishing coherence in my field of being. This isn’t a trivial thing, really, because it encompasses so many different dimensions of perception, [interior/exterior, intellect/emotion, rational/intuition, etc.].
I wanted to talk a little about a the polarity of gratification and gratitude that I recognized during my meditation, one that I feel requires some closer inspection because they are not mutually exclusive states (though carry with them distinct flavors). We can move between the two throughout the day [or any given period of time], and depending on where we anchor to most often can subsequently effect our mental and emotional well being.
Whenever we are dealing with the subtle elements of our experience, it can be tricky recognizing the dividing lines between them. For instance, how can we notice the gradient of happiness, sadness, boredom, depression, or joy? Are any of these complete unto themselves, without an opposite? How inclusive are we of the subtle experiences that we perhaps do not enjoy?
I think it is safe to assume that we all want to have some resemblance of consistency in our lives. The less turbulence we experience the better. So getting a grip on how we move between the poles of gratification and gratitude is a worthy endeavor towards this end, and a meaningful concept to understand.
First we need to come to understand the difference between horizontal and vertical polarities. When we are dealing with polarities of perspective we usually illustrate that horizontally [for instance, the polarity of left and right wing politics]. When we are talking about states or altitudes of consciousness, then we utilize a vertical model for the polarities. This isn’t to create some type of dominance hierarchy between the two poles (as if one is “better” then the “other”), but to make clear that as we may shift between them, our capacity for inclusivity and being in flow increases to the degree that we develop coherence between them. So moving forward, visualize gratification and gratitude as existing within a vertical polarity.
how are they different?
That first sip of coffee in the morning. Buying a new book. Hitting the snooze button for 10 more minutes of warmth under the covers. All of these would be considered gratifying because they fulfill a need [be it physically, mentally, or emotionally] that we perceive as necessary for the continuity of our comfort. Now comfort exists within its own polarity but for the sake of simplicity lets just say that our comfort is the maintaining of our preferential quality of being. That is to say, we prefer to have certain conditions present to be comfortable.
When these conditions are met we can say that we are residing in the positive sphere of gratification; our sense of well being is maintained as is our sense of comfort. Naturally we are still in the flow [non-resistant] and can move about our day more gracefully. Its not that we actually need these conditions met, but we certainly believe we do. And its when these conditions of comfort are not met that things go sideways.
We don’t have cream for our morning coffee. The book you wanted is sold out. You missed your alarm and now need to rush so you are not late for work. Whenever conditions that may be outside of our control arise and challenge our comfort, we shift out of the flow and into the negative loop of gratification, characterized by stress, anxiety, frustration and even anger. Our inner “comfort monster” rears its ugly head and the entire quality of our day can become disrupted. We can even stay in this state for several days depending on the intensity of the disruption which leads to a pattern of being that is not conducive to growth.
Ironically it is when we fall into this non-flow state that we usually get told [by observers in our life] to be grateful. We are guided to take time to recognize all of the things we do have in our lives that are meaningful and abundant, as a way of curtailing the sense of loss from not being gratified. Being grateful for the elements of our lives which may be present [and abundant] is not valuable without our conscious awareness of it. There needs to be participation with the our field of being for there to be gratitude, and this does not necessarily need to be a response to a lack of gratification, but can be a consistent state of being we live from.
The energy of gratitude brings with it the potential of expanding our awareness, bringing value to the moment and coherence to the entirety of our constitution, but is there a point where gratitude can go to far? Is there a negative loop to gratitude that can lead to stagnation and perhaps even spiritual bypass?
The short answer is No.
Gratitude is a flow/flex state that brings with it an expanded field of being and can be the fertile soul for higher states of consciousness, stage development, and physical well being [by neutralizing stress and negative moods]. So how is it then that gratitude exists on a pole with gratification?
Like mentioned before, vertical polarities are not the same as horizontal polarities, insofar as in the vertical model the two poles are not mutually exclusive but are two flavors of a similar state. Movement along the continuum of these polarities represents shifting from stable and unstable fields of being. When we are too focused on gratification [and thus design our routines around being gratified] we constantly jump between flow/turbulent states. If we increase the degree to which we reside in gratitude [becoming conscious of the unity of being], then we move away from the negative loops of gratification. However. Being grateful is gratifying. The difference lies in the consistency and depth that gratitude provides by being inclusive of what is both conscious and unconsciously apprehended, moment to moment.
Yes, I didn’t get my coffee this morning, but the sun is shining and the birds are chirping, and my kids are safe and healthy, and the day lies before me in abundant splendor. Today is a good day.