-- Om Chanting and Meditation. Amit Ray
“Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality.”
-- Robin S. Sharma, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams Reaching Your Destiny.
The aim of spiritual life is to awaken a joyful freedom, a benevolent and compassionate heart in spite of everything.
Gratitude is a gracious acknowledgment of all that sustains us. A thanks for our blessings.
Like gratitude, joy gladdens the heart. We can be joyful for people we love, for moments of goodness, for sunlight and trees, and for the magic of just being alive!. And as our joy grows we finally discover a happiness without cause. Like an innocent child who does not have to do anything to be happy, we can rejoice in life itself.
Is there a connection between gratitude and mindfulness? Is it, when we’re more mindful, it’s easier for us to experience gratitude because we’re more aware and focused on the good things?
When I pause and think about my life, it’s a series of snapshots of the memorable moments…a first kiss, the birth of a baby, the first vacation to Europe, the death of a family member, etc. But, most of it is a blur. Where did the years go? Is it possible, most of our lives, we check out, living in the past or future and miss being present, in the moment?
To become mindful is to see the world anew without being lost in our reactions and judgments. I like to translate mindfulness as loving awareness – an awareness that knows what’s present.
The cultivation of mindfulness really allows us to become present in our own body, for the life we have been given. Out of that grows naturally the spirit of gratitude, they feed one another. Cultivating an opening to gratitude also helps us become more mindful of life and what circumstance we are in.
This really is the basis for gratitude. When we begin to sense that it is possible to live with a quieter mind and an open heart, with a degree of satisfaction within ourselves. It’s the satisfaction of well-being.
When we are truly present in the moment, we see the beauty around us. And the more joy we cultivate, the more we can practice being aware of the present moment.
Increased gratitude is a common result of practicing mindfulness. As we begin paying more attention to our thoughts, we notice where we block ourselves from appreciating the good things in life. Say, for example, that you really get angry when stuck in traffic. But now, when you bring your focus to where you are (rather than where you want to be), you may notice the song on the radio or a beautiful scene beyond the car window. We can’t feel grateful for things we don’t notice.
When you enter into a state of mindfulness, you make the choice to open your awareness to all aspects of your experience… positive, negative, and neutral. You look at yourself, others, and the world around you with a sense of curiosity, nonjudgment, and acceptance. When you apply this same attitude of mindfulness to cultivating gratitude, you may find that you become aware of more qualities in yourself, others, and in your life, for which to be grateful.
Many of us live a great deal of our lives with our eyes closed to much of reality, seeing only what we want to see. Others have a tendency to overly focus on the negative in their lives and in the world.
Mindfulness takes judgment out of the equation and simply observes and accepts all, with full awareness. When you begin to reflect upon all that you have to be grateful for, with an attitude of gratitude, the world may begin to look a bit better.
What holds us back from mindfully noticing all that we have to be grateful for? Perhaps your partner has done something thoughtful that you failed to notice. Or maybe your child has been loving towards you in a moment when you were “too busy” to notice. Or maybe it was a sunny day and you failed to feel the warmth. We all have things in our lives for which to express authentic gratitude. The challenge is, make the choice and start noticing life, with greater mindful awareness.
“A noble person is mindful and thankful for the favors he receives from others.” – Buddha
Mindfulness Exercise of Gratitude
Think of something for which you are ungrateful - something that you tend to react to with anger, resentment, resistance, rejection, or frustration. It might be a job, relationship, health condition, financial situation, etc.
Now, think of all the things that are good about it.
Allow yourself two minutes to come up with as many things as possible that could be a “silver lining” or “hidden lesson” embedded within this thing for which you are decidedly ungrateful. For example, perhaps the job you dislike provides you with financial security to support you and your family. Maybe a relationship has many positive qualities that you, unconsciously, choose to overlook. Perhaps your poor health has allowed you time to reflect on the meaning of your life from a different perspective.
The idea behind this exercise is to develop increased awareness of the positive lessons to be learned, and the potential to realize the personal strengths hidden within life’s challenges. The goal is to recognize them and use them as teaching opportunities.
So how do we go about incorporating this practice into our daily lives?
You can make the choice to spend as many moments as possible noticing what’s good about your day, your surroundings, your life and your family. After all it’s only the present moment we have — the past is history and the future is imagination.
As often as I can, I savor being in the moment, for at least 20 seconds. Why? Because, “The longer that something is held in awareness and the more emotionally stimulating it is, the more neurons that fire and thus wire together, and the stronger the trace in memory.” So that means we are getting more than fleeting value from each one: we are rewiring our brain for happiness.
This practice is impactful because it is simple and powerful, and has positive effects on our well-being. All we have to do is be aware (mindful) of good things, as they occur, and pause long enough to allow them to really soak in.
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” – Denis Waitley
I wish you a very pleasant, mindful Happy Thanksgiving!
Make it memorable!
For an inspiring short video :