“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” ~ Meister Eckhart
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” ~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
Most of us meditate because it deepens our feelings of well-being. And it’s true that a simple ten or fifteen minutes a day can have tremendous effects. People often notice a fuller sense of inner-stability after only a few weeks of having a daily practice. This is a wonderful thing.
This article outlines a simple technique for fostering feelings of gratitude. You can either approach it as a meditation, as in the first example, or as a more active exercise, as in the second. My suggestion is to do what best suits you.
- Research has found that people who practice gratitude regularly have lower blood pressure, better immunity and a generally improved mood.
- One of the easiest ways to feel happier is to direct your attention to the good things in your life. Equally, shining a positive light on bad or neutral things changes how you feel about them. When you’re caught in a cycle of despair you can easily step out of it by consciously calling to mind all that is positive and life-firming in the situation that is causing you frustration.
The Guided Gratitude Meditation
Note: this reflection is borrowed from Vajragupta’’s excellent book, Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life. Though taken from a Buddhist context it’s an universal practice that is suitable for people of any faith (or none).
One joy scatters a hundred griefs. ~ Chinese Proverb
“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” ~ Alphonse Karr, A Tour Round My Garden
The purpose of the meditation is to cultivate an open and gentle feeling of thankfulness for all that is good in your life. For the gift of life itself. Although it can be, much of the anger and frustration we experience isn’t directed on a specific object. In either case, cultivating gratitude can replace those painful feelings with positive ones.
Go at your own pace and include anything else that comes to mind:
- Settle yourself in a relaxed posture. Take a few deep, calming breaths to relax and centre. Let your awareness move to your immediate environment: all the things you can smell, taste, touch, see, hear. Say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”
- Next, bring to mind those people in your life to whom you are close: your friends, family, partner…. Say to yourself, “For this, I am grateful.”
- Next, turn your attention onto yourself: you are a unique individual, blessed with imagination, the ability to communicate, to learn from the past and plan for the future, to overcome any pain you may be experiencing. Say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”
- Finally, rest into the realization that life is a precious gift. That you have been born into a period of immense prosperity, that you have the gift of health, culture and access to spiritual teachings. Say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”
Another Gratitude Exercise
I started working with a meditation teacher when I was living in London about three years ago. One of the exercises he suggested I do was to make a list, each morning, of all the things for which I was thankful. It’s an incredible way to start the day. You’ll walk out of the door that morning with a lightness in your step.
It doesn’t need to be an extensive list. You might, for example, only list five things before rushing out to work.
Mine might look like this:
- I am grateful for: the autumn view from my window.
- My health.
- My books and the opportunity to do meaningful work and research.
- The support of my friends and family.
- My bowl of morning muesli.
I hope you enjoyed the article! I also hope you’ll make a small space in your life for a regular gratitude practice, there really are so many benefits.
Image Credit: Double Fly by Lutz S.