Gratitude: How to Embody Thanksgiving
"If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough." - Meister Eckhart
If you do just one thing this Thanks-Giving month, employ the practice of saying thank you. November's Mindful Ritual is the practice of Gratitude (see the mindfulness practice at the end of this article). In this distracted age, we often miss the simple beauty of life. We are unaware of what we allow to dominate our consciousness. We may attend to what we don't have, instead of the abundance, basic goodness and love which surrounds all of life. So it may seem like there’s very little to be thankful for, if we are not paying attention. In fact, for survival reasons, human beings are biologically wired to remember more negative things than positive. This primal psychological phenomenon is known as the negativity bias (it is more important from an evolutionary survival perspective to remember where you saw the hungry tiger lurking than how peaceful you felt gazing at a pretty flower). Without practice, our brains don't loop on appreciation and gratitude.
To love life is to Embody Thanksgiving, and this is a learned practice.
Denis Waitley said, "Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude." Living with gratitude and saying thank you- for everything- is a ritual for lovingly connecting to life. Embodying gratitude is similar to how one might practice yoga, exercise, meditate or get up early. It is a committed practice of slowing down, attending to what you are grateful for and experiencing the bodily shift which takes place when this appreciative loving connection is felt. This is the felt-sense of thank you.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. ~Melody Beattie
November's Ritual: Gratitude This is a mindful twist on the "gratitude list"; this practice calls for a felt bodily experience. Beginning today, right now, notice and then feel the things you love. Look up from your computer, look around, what do you see? What are you grateful for? Perhaps a person you love or something you enjoy comes to mind. Call up a feeling of gratitude for this entity and then allow yourself to really connect with and feel it. Now close your eyes, what do you sense? Where in your body do you sense this feeling of gratitude? Take some time here. Is it in your chest, heart, stomach, tingling down your arms, a general relaxation in your face? The location in your body is different for everyone, some describe it as an energetic shift, or an awareness of the aliveness within the body. Whatever you find is perfect, just attend to that. You may see a bodily image and can use that to find your way into the body. The image is less important as it tends to bring in the thinking mind, and but you can use it as a portal and then allow it to fall away into the background of your consciousness as you connect further into the bodily felt experience of gratitude. If you experience difficulty connecting at first, this is normal and not a reason to stop the practice. Bodily attunement and connection is a mindfulness skill, one you can learn with intentional and patient loving-kind practice. Remember the 4 attitudes towards any mindfulness practice with the acronym: C.O.A..L: commitment/compassion/curiosity, openness, allowing whatever arises/acceptance (non-judgmentalness), and love for all that you experience.
Intend to pay attention today. Allow yourself to notice and experience gratitude, especially for small things you may not usually even notice, like the condensation on a glass of water, the next exhale, a cool breeze or the sun's warm rays on your skin as you walk to your car. Then feel the felt-sense of gratitude in your body. Notice the shift that takes place when you connect with this felt-sense alive in your body. Write at least 5 of these things down tonight before you drift off to sleep. Continue this practice daily. Do not repeat items. You will be surprised how your vision changes after just a few days of shifting your attention to consciously notice and attune to gratitude. As the month goes on, you may even surprise yourself by including things in your list you previously only disliked- like your bills- finding gratitude for the ability to have the honor of this responsibility. As your attunement to gratitude grows, so will your connectedness, appreciation and genuine heart-felt love for all that life has to offer, even tigers. Commit to to this daily practice for the month of November and feel how your life changes with mindful practice.
"Gratitude is the greatest prayer. Thank you is the greatest mantra." ~ Paramahamsa Nithyananda
Love & Light,