Gratitude is a much used word these days. In this new age of spiritual change that seems to spread slowly but steadily, you hear people talk about gratitude left, right and centre. Every third quote on Facebook seems to be about gratitude. Gratitude is being quoted as the secret to happiness. If you just start being grateful, happiness will find you easily. Is it really that easy? Or is everybody just talking after each other, without really knowing what they are saying? How many of them practice gratitude on a daily basis? Is gratitude becoming a platitude? I’d like to explore that idea here…..
Those of you who have ever been to one of my yoga classes in the Karma Shack know that I always end the session with a little gratitude contemplation. I express amongst other things how extremely grateful I am for everything that the Karma Shack has brought into my life: growth, depth, joy and fulfilment, and the fact that I can share all that with others in my classes and treatments. The first time I said this out loud in class, it was a spontaneous act. As if the thoughts had been put in my head and my mouth just worded them, without much conscious input from yours truly. I had goose bumps and tears in my eyes. Because it sounded so totally true. I felt that gratitude deep inside, in every cell of my body, and it made me very happy. It was real.
I realised that by saying it out loud every day I confirmed that happiness over and over again, and I started adding this little gratitude prayer to the end of each yoga session. Every day it feels true. I am thankful for the Karma Shack in so many ways, and I even believe that that little building keeps handing me more good stuff because I thank it out loud in front of everybody every day.
Apart from that daily public expression of gratitude, I do another little private round in the evening, the moment I lay my head on my pillow. I run quietly through my day and name all the things, events and people that I feel grateful for: an inspired yoga session, a pile of clean laundry, a super-satisfied massage client, a hummingbird visiting the Karma Shack garden while I am at work there, a visit with a friend where one cup of tea leads to another and to a very intimate conversation, my cat Pumpkins joining us in a Karma Shack yoga session or sitting on my lap all afternoon while I am writing, a beautiful meal with veggies and herbs from my own garden, the fact that I can go to bed at eight without feeling that I am missing out on anything. Then I fall asleep with a peaceful mind in less than 5 minutes, usually.
Some people say that you have to watch out not to make your gratitude prayers into a kind of shopping list of all the simple little things in life, but I don’t agree with that. Gratitude can go as deep or as superficial as you want. If your gratitude seems to well up about a cup of tea and your dog, or the oatmeal cookies you had with your tea, there is nothing wrong with that. Louise Hay expresses her gratefulness for her bed every morning when she wakes up. Some days have big and profound things to be intensely grateful for, some days it is just a whole list of tiny, seemingly insignificant things that add up to a giant feeling of gratitude. Nothing wrong with that. And if you really cannot come up with one nice thing in your day, then be grateful for having two eyes, or two feet, or 10 fingers and a mouth to speak with. Or just the fact that you woke up this morning (some people didn’t, just saying). Just find something to be grateful about.
The act of expressing and feeling gratitude does several things that are beneficial to your emotional and mental well-being. First of all, by looking at all the good things in your day, you don’t dwell on the bad stuff. Especially at night before bed, focusing only on good stuff might save you hours of sleepless ruminating over that one thing that went wrong today, or the fact that the guy you’re dating didn’t call. When you focus on gratitude, these thoughts just don’t get space in your head. A head empty of worries makes for a good night’s sleep which makes for a great day tomorrow!
The basic truth about gratitude is, that it implies fulfilment. And that is undeniably a happy feeling!
With gratitude you focus on what you have, not on what you don’t have. And most of us always have so much more than what we are aware of in our daily lives.
So yes, I’m personally a true believer of gratitude as one of the main pillars of perpetual, intrinsic happiness. There are a few more, but I’ll talk about that in another post!
In this post I’ve shared a few things that I’m grateful for, and I would love to hear from you what you would put in your gratitude prayer. Please share them in the comments below!