We all know we need a daily dose of Vitamin C and Vitamin D, but what about Vitamin G, Gratitude? We are currently being asked to let go of the old way and do things differently in our everyday lives. This can be unsettling for the ego that likes familiarity and comfort. Much like in a yoga class where the teacher may encourage you to stretch beyond your comfort zone to rise above self-imposed limitations, we are being asked to adapt, be resilient and perhaps turn obstacles into opportunities. Resilience is about being open to what is in front of you right now. And that means paying attention to the present. You can pay attention to what is going well in your life or what is not. According to Patanjali in Sutra 11.16 one of the aims of yoga is to avoid unnecessary future pain (heyam duhkham anagatam). So we can rise above self-inflicted pain from unhelpful thoughts by training the mind. Have you ever wondered why yoga makes you feel so amazing? The good feeling at the end of class is because you have calmed your mind by keeping it focused for the duration of the class, released tension in the body, oxygenated your blood and lungs and increased the release of oxytocin and dopamine in your brain. Gratitude also acts as an essential ingredient to enhance your brain chemistry and elicit feelings of trust and pleasure.
I started a gratitude practice when I was having sleep difficulties a few years ago. Every night before bed, I wrote in a journal five things that I was grateful for about the day. It could be a person, thing or event. It’s about paying attention and writing it down. When you write it down you embrace reality and leave a positive imprint in your gratitude memory bank. Later you can return to that memory and feel the warm glow in your heart that arises from gratitude. My husband and I also do a gratitude practice before dinner. We each share out loud whatever we may be grateful for about that moment or that day. It could be the sunshine, the rain, the healthy food in front of us or a phone call from a friend or family. Whatever has touched our heart with the mood of care, affection, delight or compassion. In the spirit of creating a new, conscious habit we can start with baby steps to take us in a skillful direction. To train the mind to be grateful you could also start and end each day with gratitude. Try the following. Before bed ask yourself, “What were the miracles of today?” and write five things in your gratitude journal. Have an empty cup sitting beside your bed and turn it upside down. When you wake up, turn the cup over again and say “I’m awake, I’m alive, I can see a new day!” Wiggle your toes, open your eyes and feel the earth below your feet. Allow the light of awareness to shine from your essence out into the world.
“Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame.”
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