Some spiritual schools emphasize the need to be thankful and that we should practice thankfulness. Does it not have the power to transform our experience?
By the time you feel thankful, your experience has already been transformed. Acknowledging what you have to be thankful for and saying the words may have some value—perhaps it shifts you temporarily out of your usual whining and complaining—but is this not purely mechanical in nature?
Thankfulness arises spontaneously as a state of being in conjunction with other states of being. You experience something beautiful—a perfect, luminous winter morning—and a feeling of thankfulness enters you. Then, you may, or may not, acknowledge your state, after the fact of its arising.
Thankfulness is the being-response to a transformative experience. It does not need our assistance.
But what about being thankful for a gift that is given to you by your friend or a family member?
Ah yes. As you know, I do not favour gifts and I will do almost anything to avoid receiving one. That said, of course there are exceptions, not many, such as gifts from small children. Gifts are a burden. Usually they carry with them certain expectations–of a relationship or some reciprocal gesture—which are rarely appropriate to that moment. It may be necessary on such unfortunate occasions to speak some socially-acceptable platitude while deciding where the gift can go that will cause least harm.
Again, there are exceptions, but most gifts carry too much freight in the form of impressions and expectations. If you are able to give a gift without these embellishments, you are certainly a prime candidate for this work.