It’s odd that each calendar month comes clothed with a specific attribute; November wears gratitude and Love is suitable for February. Or is it? Like yoga, gratitude and love are daily practices that do not belong to a certain month of the year nor season or trend. It’s peculiar how one tends to perceive life passing in sheets on a calendar or an entire aisle of the drugstore – I mean have you seen the Easter baskets at Rite Aid?? I wonder if the moments of our days and months have more impact to the heart and spirit than a feast once a year when we all must be grateful. What if in each moment-each breath-we have the invitation and ability to restore gratefulness or compassion. I know that yoga and meditation have helped me connect to the little moments in each day of every month. I’ve cultivated mindfulness to look for the beauty and the good in people and circumstances. It’s not something I do just around the holidays. Gratefulness arrives in the continuous, fluid, and unattached moments of every day life.
I have a buddy from my mentorship course this year with whom I daily exchange five things I’m grateful for…it’s a gift to write them to her and even more of a gift to receive her gratitudes…a beautiful reciprocity and exchange of what is valuable and good in this life right now. I know that many of you out there in the yoga community share this practice of gratitude sharing and I wonder how it’s transformed you and those around you over the years. I wonder what it would be like if we (meaning everyone!) chose to post gratitudes on social media for one week instead of political banter or humble brags. I wonder how it would feel for us all as a collective. I wonder how it would shift perspective and relationships to hard stuff we face in our personal lives and in the broader society.
David Steindl-Rast – Anatomy of Gratitude – | On Being
One of the luminaries on gratitude practice is Brother David Steindl-Rast. He’s now in his 90’s and has lived through a world war, the end of an empire, and the fascist takeover of his country. He’s given a TED talk, viewed over five million times, on the subject of gratitude – a practice increasingly interrogated by scientists and physicians as a key to human well-being. He was also an early pioneer, together with Thomas Merton, of dialogue between Christian and Buddhist monastics. He speaks of mysticism as the birthright of every human being, and of the anatomy and practice of gratitude as full-blooded, reality-based, and redeeming. I recommend you take some time to listen to
Brother David helped me see that gratitude is not mere platitudes or pithiness nor is it about ignoring or feeling grateful for tragic events. I don’t feel grateful for the cruel deaths of my friend’s loved ones. I don’t feel grateful for racist, bigoted and arrogant leadership. I don’t feel grateful for the dark days and heavy rains. I don’t feel grateful for the youth epidemic of anxiety and depression.
Yet, I can feel gratefulness for the love and support of a small community who rallies around a mother and a daughter to bring a blanket of support and kindness when the rug got tragically pulled from underneath their feet. I can feel grateful for the fire that has motivated millions of people to voice their truth – speaking up for unity, equality and justice. I can feel grateful for situations and people who force us to look at ourselves, address who we are and get us engaged in uncomfortable yet needed conversations. I can feel grateful for the children we are raising who are cultivating compassion and inclusivity. I can feel grateful for the teachers at our local middle school who are taking time each week to sit still together, to enter a place of calm and deep reflection so that they model teaching mindfully for their students. I am grateful for the rain and grey that seems bossy this time of year and walk outside into it and feel invigorated, cleansed and reminded of the mighty and resilient power of change and of blooming again.
Gratefulness and loving-kindness is a practice. I can plant seeds now. Each breath can be a reminder to inhale what is of beauty and value and to exhale what is toxic and drags me down. With grateful moments practice the palette changes and life with all it’s wild, heartbreaking and heart blooming experiences becomes a little bit more nourishing and accepting.
As a yoga community we can look for moments of gratefulness and either take them in quietly or share them with others in words, a soft compassionate gaze into someone’s eyes, a generous action that asks for nothing in return. If we all try it together –imagine what kind of relationships and communities we’ll grow!
In loving gratitude,