When we were younger, I remember mom gently nudging me and my sister to say a prayer of thanks before we sprang out of bed- to mother earth, on whom we would tread, the sun that rose and filled the world with light, and the breath that continued to fill our life. Before we went to sleep, we were supposed to end the day thanking the God for the day and all the moments we experienced throughout the day. When we were small, we just did as we were told. The ritual did not have much meaning in our life, beyond being a routine activity. As we grew, the thanksgiving was a mere chore, just to keep mom happy. It was much later that the significance of showing gratitude began to dawn on me.
Our minds are full of thoughts. More often than not, we tend to keep our thoughts occupied with people who hurt us, of things that worry us, of matters that did not work as planned, so on and so forth. Perhaps these are the thoughts that plague our minds when we sit down to meditate. In other words, the negative thoughts that we carry subconsciously throughout the day, affects our conscious mind when we try to gather our thoughts.
Can we prevent negative thoughts from clouding our mind?
Apparently, we can!
The simple mantra is- to be grateful for everything that we experience in our day to day life! When the mind is filled with thankful thoughts, it begins to fill our heart with joy. Slowly it becomes a part of our thoughts. Negativity no longer affects us or our thoughts.
A simple routine that mom tried to establish for us had such greater meaning!
Buddhist monks are known to begin each day with a chant of gratitude for the blessings of their life.
“Revering the Light of Buddha,Reflecting upon my imperfect self,I shall proceed to live a life of gratitude.”
They even offer prayers of gratitude for the suffering they have been given.
“Grant that I might have enough suffering to awaken in the deepest possible compassion and wisdom.”
Perhaps they knew that feeling grateful is the first step in calming their mind. Gratitude for the people you love and those who love you, for the moments of goodness, for the sunlight, the trees, and birds and all creatures big and small, for the air that fills your lungs, and the health that you enjoy. As you begin to feel gratitude for everything around you, it gives rise to an inexplicable feeling of joy. This joy makes you feel more contented for all that you have rather than brood over all that you don’t have.
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, then at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, we didn’t die, so let us all be thankful” ~ Buddha
But the process is more difficult than you think. It could initially be tough to think of things that you are grateful for. The reason is that, we tend to take a lot of things for granted. We don’t really think there’s anything to be grateful for unless it affects us majorly.
But you must know that even a simple act of breathing that happens subconsciously is something to be grateful for. There are so many who need oxygen support or ventilators to assist with breathing. A glass of clean water that we don’t think twice before gulping down, is out of reach for so many people. So imagine the number of things that we take for granted that other people could die to obtain.
Here’s how you can train your mind to be thankful the little things we tend to dismiss as unimportant-
Write a gratitude list-
Keep a small diary with you at all times. Write down anything that you were grateful for throughout the day. It could be as simple as finding the right pair of socks in the morning to as complex as a stranger coming to your rescue in a difficult situation.
As you begin to put things on paper, you will be amazed to find more and more things you are grateful for each day. You will find your mind removed from the culture of consumption surrounding you and instead centering on things that are greater and more fulfilling. As you begin to crawl out of the finite-ness of the things that are visible, your souls begin to connect with the infinite-ness of the invisible.
Keep a happiness jar-
We have a happiness jar at home. It is simple glass fish bowl which earlier housed our goldfishes Chip and Dale. When the fishes died, my son was heartbroken. So I decided to clean out the small fish bowl and fill it partly with colourful pebbles. I asked my son to write a goodbye note for his fishes and put it in the bowl. His note was so positive that we decided to write gratitude notes for the fishes for being in our life and put them in it. It was such a calming activity that we decided to extend it to other moments of our life as well.
Soon we were jotting down things we were thankful for each day and dropping them into the bowl. The bowl filled up slowly at first, and gradually there were a whole lot of things to be grateful for every single day! Every once in a while, when the jar is full, we sit around it, and take turns to read the notes of gratitude. Invariably it makes us feel so joyous, that the feeling is inexplicable!
If writing a gratitude list seems difficult at first, start with a happiness jar.You’ll be happy for the positivity that it brings to your life.
Meditation is about being connected with your inner self. Being grateful does exactly that. It changes the vibrations within you to one of positivity and fills your inside with light and love, forgiveness and joy.