The Practice of Gratitude
I once had the opportunity to be part of a group where we practiced slowing down our communication with each other. This gave us the chance to really hear each other and feel what happened inside us when we did hear each other.
What arose in me was a strong feeling of gratitude. In slowing down and giving space to notice how I felt about what others said, I realized how much more I appreciated the people around me in that group.
Days later, I realized that I was still in a much different place than I was before I had the experience of simply slowing down a conversation. Now, I was not living in slow motion, mind you. Actually, during some times of day, I was finding myself much more efficient. Taking some time to actually slow down for a couple minutes in the early part of my day has helped me to feel more peaceful and grateful for my life.
I got curious about this strong feeling of gratitude, which seemed to be helping me feel great about some of the things I don’t usually enjoy doing. I recalled a trend some years ago to keep a “gratitude journal” and that sort of thing, but why? I found there are many studies showing that gratitude is associated with the following: greater happiness, optimism, lasting relationships, better health, fewer aches and pains, increased alertness, generosity, self-esteem, empathy and better sleep.
Check out websites like Happierhuman.com, where the article page titled 31 Benefits of Gratitude: The Ultimate Science-Backed Guide features a beautiful graphic showing all the ways in which gratitude can rock your world. The research proves that I am not alone in feeling benefits of coming from a place of gratitude.
Practicing appreciation is a powerful way to lift us out of negativity.
Lifting out of negativity
Back in the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali stated that practicing santosha (contentment or appreciation of what is) will lead to unexcelled joy. Practicing appreciation is a powerful way to lift us out of negativity and acknowledge our interconnection with all things that sustain us. There are many simple ways to incorporate an attitude of gratitude into your day. One way is to list at least three things at the end of your day for which you are grateful. Another friend of mine begins his morning by sitting quietly and remembering what he is grateful for before getting ready for work.
Offering gratitude before a meal to all who contributed to bringing it to you is another way to practice. Perhaps you can even find a way to turn a gripe into gratefulness.
Say that you are once again stuck in the notorious traffic jam in Tamarindo. Since you are already sitting still in your car, start to slow down your breaths, coming into some nice deep inhales and exhales. Then see if there is anything that you can appreciate about that moment. Perhaps be grateful that you have a vehicle that works, that you are financially able to afford such a vehicle here in Costa Rica, that you are just meters away from the Pacific Ocean, that you have this moment to observe the surfers, the tourists, and maybe even say hi to someone you wouldn’t have noticed if you hadn’t been slowed down by this event.
In our yoga classes, we bring gratitude in each day with the word “namaste,” an expression of recognition and gratefulness for the divine light in ourselves and others. We say this typically with our hands held in the anjuli mudra, or prayer position.
Every time I bring my hands together in this place, it helps me to come back to this moment and the presence of grace in my life. Take my challenge this month. Slow down enough to feel grateful each day for the blessings in your life. Observe any of the resulting benefits you experience. Experiment with taking the time to honor and appreciate what is, and how that can fill you with more joy.