Thanksgiving. If you're American or Canadian, I'm sure your mind went directly to turkey, fall leaves, and pumpkin-spiced everything! As wonderful as I find the holiday of Thanksgiving, the title of this blog is not about that, but of the act of Giving Thanks. Gratitude. Being thankful.
Research has shown that those who have a daily practice of gratitude experience positive changes in their brains. Being grateful is noted in various spiritual paths as the highest and most positive mental state possible. I was watching a video recently of a short talk by a monk in India who listed gratitude as a pathway to inspiration, and of course inspiration is also needed for development along any spiritual path, as well as for living a full life generally.
When we express gratitude, that heartfelt message of thanks goes out into the universe and returns back to us. What we put out to the universe comes back to us, via the unchangeable and unavoidable law of karma. Sending out energy of gratitude is a positive, high-vibration energy that will bring more positivity to you.
What is meant by "practicing gratitude"? There are a variety of ways to practice gratitude. If being grateful is not a very natural place for you to be in most of the time or you really want to make an extra effort in this arena, you may find it helpful to keep a gratitude journal. This can physically be anything from a beautiful notebook, to a pad of paper, to a Word document or a list on your phone. They probably have a gratitude app at this point. Make a point every day to write in your journal all the things you are grateful for from you day. Even if you didn't have a great day (and just remember - everyone has not-great-days!), there will always be something you can dig up to be grateful for - perhaps a smile from a stranger, the feeling of petting your dog, the sunshine, or the feeling of cleanliness and nourishment from the rain.
You don't need to be as formal as keeping a journal to practice gratitude. You can of course be grateful in real time. No wait at the post office? Thank you, Universe [God, Jesus, Buddha, etc]! Enjoying that coffee? Thank you, Universe, for giving me the time and means to have and enjoy this time drinking coffee! Tired after a long day? Thank you, Universe, for giving me purpose and allowing me to achieve so much today!
A great benefit for developing a habit of gratitude is the ability to have a fuller picture of life's trials and tribulations, and thus be able to find things to be grateful for even when you're going through difficult times. A little example: when I was pregnant with my first child, I never expected to have a cesarian (c-section). When I was looking through the pregnancy books and when I took the prenatal class, I really zoned out when they talked about c-sections. I knew I didn't want one, and I knew I was usually pretty "normal" when it came to medical things, I was usually very healthy, and I just didn't think that topic would apply to my pregnancy. But, I had noticed that many times when women wrote or talked about having to have a c-section they would say things like they felt they had missed out on the chance to "really" give birth. Well, I'm sure you can guess that I ended up having to have a c-section with my firstborn. He was breech, and the doctors tried to get him to turn but he was really stuck in bottom first. So, I had a c-section. Although I never wanted a c-section, I made a choice when I knew that was what needed to happen to reflect on how lucky I was to be in a time and place where that was a no-brainer, safe alternative to having to go through a very difficult birth that in the not-so-distant past and in other places on Earth at this very time caused/s death to mother and/or baby. Imagine the panic of not progressing through labor and realizing it is because it's the bottom and not the head trying to come through and it just physically is not going to happen. Instead of that, I had a bright, clean operating room with very skilled doctors and nurses, anesthesia, my husband was able to be there, and our baby was safely delivered - what a blessing! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I had to go through that one way or the other - either with resistance, resignation, feeling cheated, resentful, disappointed, etc, or with gratitude.
Often, it is really hard to hear that you should be grateful for hard things when you are going through them (so be mindful of that if you know someone going through a hard time right now!), but we all have experienced being able to look back at a challenging time and see the blessing in it. And, as I mentioned, mine is just a small example. I won't pretend that is the hardest thing anyone has come across, including myself. But, as our minds can really only focus on one thing at a time, especially in those hard times it can be so helpful to try to zero in on whatever can be found, however small, to be grateful for. And with practice, over time it will become a habit, and with all that gratitude getting sent out you will be sent evermore things deserving of gratitude.
I am an Ananda® certified meditation teacher. I am passionate about meditation and embrace a yogic lifestyle for greater wellness physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
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