With Easter and Passover right around the corner, and being in the middle of leading a 6 week meditation course focusing on gratitude, it seemed like a good time to blog about gratitude.
Many spiritual teachers, self help gurus, and people who love their lives say that one of the keys to happiness is an 'attitude of gratitude'. Some people find gratitude is loaded with religious connotations and expectations, they relate more to the word appreciation.Whatever you call it, it is no secret that looking on the bright-side lends itself to seeing the bright-side which lends itself to a brighter experience of life.
But how do you get there?
After a recent bout with the flu, I became extremely grateful for my health. In fact as the symptoms eased I was grateful to be able to sit up, and even to walk around! But lets face it less than a week later, I have moved back to taking being vertical for granted. Certainly a brush with losing whatever we hold dear can trigger some genuine gratitude for what we have or what we could lose.
Rather than waiting for loss to snap us into a state of appreciation, we can practice connecting to what we have to be grateful for. Some teachers suggest a gratitude journal, others mention a daily practice of naming just 5 things we are grateful for. Meditation teacher Tara Brach speaks of having a gratitude buddy- someone you exchange daily emails with simply listing a few things you are grateful for.
I've found i have to start pretty basic: 'grateful for the breath, grateful i have two working legs, grateful i have a roof over my head, grateful for indoor plumbing'. The appreciation is real, but there is a slight disconnect.Other times some magic takes hold, and the deep sense of gratitude fills my entire being: I notice the sun coming in the window- grateful for light-(that alone feels like enough). Grateful for space (is there anything else?) -and breath- for life around me-for all that is!
Whatever method you choose, consciously creating a daily habit of appreciation can be a powerful practice, and an effective one, even when things seem grim, and especially when things seem grim.
In addition to consciously remembering what we are grateful for, Brach and other teachers emphasize one of the keys to cultivating gratitude is connecting to "what is," to the present moment.
One of the reasons I love yoga so much is that it connects me to what is. As I slow down and focus only on breath, and posture, I am instantly transported into the moment. There is nothing but breath and body. Gratitude is a natural consequence!
But, some days even yoga becomes an opportunity for distraction- am I doing this posture correctly? What can i teach about this pose? When can i come out of this pose? What will i do next?.... I am transported out of the moment and back into the world of shoulds and coulds. Of course there are also the times when I do the poses and am thinking about a stuff completely outside of the yoga room, once again my connection to gratitude collapses.
The remedy is simply practice. Stop, notice I have left the moment and come back. Even if I have to do it a thousand times a minute, I am training my mind to stay focused and giving myself tiny tastes of 'what is'.
Ultimately, I am so appreciative to have the opportunity to spend my days contemplating gratitude and seeking the moment.
I offer a wish that all beings know love, peace, well being and joy.