For seven years, I have quested for wisdom, insights, questions, meaning, mystery, and adventure. Though I currently embrace the journey, it has lacked ease. Despite the angst involved, the challenging questions have encouraged me to persevere through inner hardship.
One day, I realized that, while not-knowing produced anxiety in me, I also desired the mystery. I fell into a deep dialectical tension and existential crisis.
A little over two years ago, I sought enlightenment, desiring an experience with God through meditation, prayer, reading, and more. One practice was mystery. I would examine the beautiful unknown in the universe, a practice inspired from The Mystery Experience by Tim Freke. I did this to have such a deep awareness that I would understand reality; however, one day, I realized that, while not-knowing produced anxiety in me, I also desired the mystery. I fell into a deep dialectical tension and existential crisis. For some spiritual teachers, the key ethic is to “be yourself,” but how could I be myself if I did not know who I was or what I desired?
Thankfully, the same year, I entered into college at Doane University and began studying religion. As I read up on world religions, I saw that each path offers clues into how a person knows their purpose and ethical values. I realized that what I wanted lacked relevance, unless desire is a guide to ethical gnosis (something which I still speculate may be true). I began integrating the different religious practices for discerning one’s dharma.
Seeing that the Universe was creating a synchronicity to give me a message, I decided to begin practicing gratitude.
One practice I utilized comes from Islam: examining events in life to discern Allah’s will. As I examined events in my life, I noticed that I kept coming across gratitude-related writings: books, articles, e-mails, and even a meditation service at church. Seeing that the Universe was creating a synchronicity to give me a message, I decided to begin practicing gratitude. At first, I was not quite sure where to go with it. I began with food, eating with awareness of the food’s interconnection with all of nature and God’s providence, often giving prayers of thanksgiving before meals. Then, I began to look at the wisdom I was gaining in life, even, and especially, during the demanding times, and I embraced these experiences with gratitude, feeling that this attitude would attract more positivity and wisdom into my life.
Then, during a Unity Online Radio podcast from Unity, a progressive form of Christianity blended with New Thought, I learned about gratefulness.org. I decided to use this website, and it has helped me count my blessings and look forward to blessings to come. I have come to see more patterns in my life through the gratitude journal; develop tools for positive thinking; answer questions I have held about gratitude; find links to other helpful spiritual sites; appreciate nature; and take delight in the smallest pleasures of life.
I am inexpressibly grateful for the tool of gratitude I am learning to use to evolve into a more complete human and a wiser spirit.
Matthew Villareal was born and raised in Greeley, CO and has been on a long, interesting, and enlightening spiritual journey throughout his life. From his struggles with questions about suffering, grace, and the nature of Yeshua to his current experiences with the Universe giving him signs leading him in the right direction, his spiritual journey has been one of growth, adventure, and evolution in character. He is currently a student at Doane University in Crete, NE, with a major in religious studies and a triple minor in communications, philosophy, and Asian Studies. He hopes to get a master of divinity degree at a seminary or divinity school and become a pastor, God-willing.
We invite you to share a story about yourself or another person, reflecting on the question: “How has gratefulness shifted a moment, an experience, or a lifetime?”