Since childhood I had been taught by my parents to say “thank you” whenever someone gave me a gift or had a kind word towards me.

I had always felt that word resonating inside me as a light, humble sound, as if it was supposed to tiptoe in… By pronouncing it, it was as if something changed in me, I felt a feeling of well-being pervading my body and beyond… I felt a strange jolt in my body that expanded outward more and more, like when a pebble is thrown into a pond, and many concentric circles form…. those circles were my vibrations spreading.

But how does a simple word, I wondered, make my body vibrate so intensely? What power do simple words like “thank you” possess?

Years went by, and like all good things, that sweet feeling that had derived from the words “thank you” vanished, swallowed up by the routine that absorbs everything and levels everything.

Saying “thank you“, slowly became a habit, almost a catchword…thank you for coming, thank you for the little thought, thank you for the ice cream, thank you, thank you……

Why couldn’t I feel the vibrations anymore? Why had it become for me a word like thousands of others?

I abandoned these reflections together with the child in me who had perceived the sweetness of such an expression so well.

I continued to say “thank you” at every opportunity and in every circumstance that required it, simply, politely, but without too much awareness, and perhaps too superficially.

Fortunately, life holds great surprises for us, when we least expect it, and decides to impart lessons to us through situations which we often fail to fully understand.

It was in 1993 when I entered a bookstore attracted by a book, on the cover of which were two big black eyes that called out to me….

I still remember the amazement when I read the first lines of the first page of “Autobiography of a Yogi“!

Those words so full of vibrations, had had the same effect on me, as when, as a child, I would utter the words “thank you”!

I felt at home again! My first wish was one of gratitude to Life for blessing me again and bringing me back to the path of my Guru.

It took several years, however, for me to come closer to the understanding of what gratitude really meant.

I needed to find my true Self, my true nature before I could understand the essence and depth of that word.

I was living on the surface too much, leaving out what I held most dear: my Soul, that child I had left behind, abandoning it in the safest hiding place, just as this brief story from the sacred scriptures of Hinduism tells…

The safest hiding place

In a distant time men were divine, but they abused their divinity so much that Brahma deprived them of that privilege. To ensure that men would no longer come into possession of that divine nature, the luminous gods thought of hiding it deep in the earth, but Brahma warned them that men would dig the earth until they found it. They then thought of hiding it in the depths of the sea, but again Brahma warned them that men would plumb the depths of the sea until they found it. Seeing the luminous gods unable to find a place to permanently hide the divinity of men, Brahma told them: “We will hide it in a place where they will never think of looking for it: deep within their own hearts.

 – from “To Ancient Sources, Voices of Hinduism Through Time” ed. Laksmi

I then began the Path, the Path of Self-Realization, and during this quest I began to understand that gratitude belongs to the Soul because it is noble and pure just like the Soul itself.

I understood that to be grateful is to understand that everything we have is a gift from a Father who watches over us and loves us so much, giving us the most beautiful things every day.

With eyes full of gratitude then, every sunset became a special gift, every living being became part of me, every star in the sky became a beacon of love…

But it was mostly by confidently accepting the obstacles that life placed before me that I began to understand what true gratitude is.

I have never doubted the Love of my Guru, and in the face of challenges, it is with joy that I thank Him because I know that behind all the fears, behind all the loneliness, behind all the suffering, there is so much Light, there is that divinity enclosed within us just waiting to be found.

But before I could welcome the most difficult trials with true gratitude, it was necessary for me to follow a path to understanding by passing through the Paths of Yoga.

Thanks to the path of Gyana Yoga (wisdom), I understood that true wisdom comes from deep within the Soul, and that it can only be perceived in the silence of meditation.

And I am grateful to the Universe that has granted me the opportunity to know this silence, in deep listening to the Heavenly Father.

Thanks also to the path of Bhakti Yoga (devotion), I realized that what really matters is not how we define God, but how we approach Him. It is being able to feel His closeness, always.

And I am grateful to my Guru, who, with deep Love, is teaching me how to live and love.

And it is through the path of Karma Yoga (action) that I have learned that true service is to love others, unconditionally, never expecting anything in return. It has been a blessing for me to understand how, behind every small action, the Creator is always God, and that in every action taken, the spirit with which one serves is more important than the service itself.

And it is precisely thanks to this path of awareness that I am succeeding in accepting what is happening to me, because I feel that everything, every trial that is given to me is to be considered a privilege, since it gives me the opportunity to grow spiritually and to find that hidden divine Light that removes all the trappings that do not serve, all the attachments that lead us astray, and we remain only with our true essence.

And then with deep emotion, I can only say THANK YOU to Life, as I find that ancient vibration of joy in pronouncing these words, as I find in me that little girl I had silenced. That little girl who, with amazement, looks at all the gifts that are offered to her and who, with shining eyes and with love and gratitude, wants to embrace the world because she knows, deep inside, that she is part of a Whole, which is perfect.

And I am grateful to the Father, who is helping me understand that happiness is not having everything you want, but being happy for what you have.

Now that child has finally resumed her path, hand in hand with her Guru, traveling home, to the safest hiding place, for only then can she find her true joy again.

When clouds of devastating war rain fire and death, I will not forget that Thou, O God, art my best Bomb‐Shelter. In life and death, in disease, famine, pestilence, and poverty, I cling to Thee who alone canst show me that, in all dualities of life‐experiences, my soul remains unharmed. Thou wilt ever protect me, and make me realize that I am immortal, untouched by the changing conditions of childhood, youth, and age, and of world conditions, whether in peace or in upheaval.

– Paramhansa Yogananda

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