Every language in the world has a way of saying “thank you’. We take this for granted and in doing so negate a whole world of possibility. By viewing gratitude as a given we avoid being in touch with some of our greatest gifts.
So what is gratitude and how will this help in learning to balance our lives and ground us?
Gratitude crosses all boundaries – creed, age, vocation, gender and nation. It is essentially the recognition of the unearned increments of value in one’s experience. The Latin root of the word gratitude is grata – a given gift – and from the same root we get our word grace, which means a gift freely given that is unearned.
Gratitude is a strong feeling that we feel from within. It is usually a spontaneous feeling. However, it remains a choice – we can choose to feel grateful or we can choose to feel ungrateful. As a choice gratitude becomes an attitude or disposition.
Attitude is how we show up in the world. Attitude is from within. We choose how we show up and how we integrate ourselves in the world. In order to open up opportunities for ourselves rather than shut them down – gratitude as an attitude and daily practice keeps the heart open regardless of what comes our way.
To cultivate gratitude in our daily lives will help us to develop character. Having the capacity for gratitude will help us with other virtues like generosity, humility, compassion, wisdom, joy, integrity and trust. All of these invite and open positive interactions and experiences for us.
Starting our day with gratitude allows us to connect to the very best in ourselves. It also allows us to see and connect with others and with life itself.
We know we are off-balance yet we struggle to align ourselves. We allow the noise out there to interfere with what we already have. We are blinded by peer pressure, social media, computers, greed and other obsessions. Rarely do we realise that if we simply start our day marvelling at life’s gifts and give thanks to them, we activate positive opportunities and virtues which will naturally increase the possibilities in our world.
Practice – Mindfulness
Focus: Learning to meditate and start your day with peace
- Sit Tall – The most common and easiest position for meditation is to sit. Sit on the floor, in a chair or on a stool. Be comfortable. Now imagine a thread extending from the top of your head, pulling your back, neck and head straight up towards the ceiling in a straight line. Sit Tall.
- Relax your body – Close your eyes and scan your body, relaxing each part one at a time. Begin with your toes, feet, ankles, shins and continue to move up your entire body. Don’t forget to relax your shoulders, neck, eyes, face, jaw and tongue which are all common areas for us to hold tension.
- Be Still and Silent – Now that you are sitting tall and relaxed take a moment to be still. Just sit. Be aware of your surroundings, your body, the sounds around you. Don’t react or attempt to change anything. Just be aware.
- Breathe – turn your attention to your breath. Breathe silently, yet deeply. Engage your diaphragm and fill your lungs, but do not force your breath. Notice how your breath feels in your nose, throat, chest and stomach as it flows in and out.
- Establish a mantra (optional) – a sound, word or phrase that can be repeated throughout your meditation – this can simply provide a point of focus during your meditation. A simple example to start with could be – I am breathing in, I am breathing out.
- Calm your mind – As you focus on your breath or mantra, your mind will begin to calm and become present. This does not mean that thoughts will cease to arise. As thoughts come to you, simply acknowledge them, set them aside, and return your attention to your breath or mantra. Don’t dwell on the thoughts. Some days your mind will be busy and filled with inner chatter, other days it will remain calm and focused. Neither is good or bad.
- When to end your practice – There is no correct length of time to practice meditation – however when beginning start with shorter periods of time 5-10 minutes. Set an alarm if this will help and you prefer a set time.
- How to end your practice – When you are ready to end your practice, slowly bring your conscious attention back to your surroundings. Acknowledge your presence in the space around you. Gently wriggle your fingers and toes. Begin to move your hands, feet, arms and legs. Open your eyes. Move slowly and take your time getting up.
Practice every day. Consistency is more important than quantity.
Practice anywhere – meditating outdoors in nature can be very peaceful although at home is often more comfortable.
Meditation is a simple, effective and convenient way to calm your busy mind, relax your body and become grounded and find inner peace amidst the chaos of day-to-day life.