As the days pass one after another and we tumble towards the holidays with all of the attendant socializing, as we are pulled from our routine and from our meditation and yogic practices, as we get swept up in holiday traditions that don’t suit our present lifestyle or values, it’s worthwhile to take a break from it all, and pray with Brother Steindl-Rast for gratitude to fill our lives. It’s such a cliche, but come on, what IS really important? What is the most meaningful gift we can give to our family, friends, to the world?
In a way, all of our practices are geared towards cultivating an attitude of gratefulness. Gratefulness grows out of mindfulness practice. Each and every breath is unique. Multiple gifts: both the breath itself, the prana that flows, as well as the ability to see and feel it. Gratefulness radiates from a healthy asana practice. Again, we observe many gifts in a single pose: the physical ability to “perform,” the areas of personal challenge which push us to go deeper, the beauty of synchronizing mind, breath, spirit when it happens. Gratitude showers upon us in sitting meditation when we recognize the gift of the practice itself in our lives, the boon of insight when it occurs, the attendant emotional states that teach us about our hearts.
JOURNAL EXERCISE: In this season of gift giving, it is very worthwhile to compile one or more gratitude lists BEFORE any gift exchange you may be involved in. What are you grateful for in your partner, your parents, your children, your coworkers, your neighbor (especially that really annoying one!), your gramma. How about creating a new list each morning before the day rumbles into full gear. Be sure to give yourself a list too. There is after all, no one more deserving of your love!
If any of the above are difficult, then try ramping up your lovingkindness or tonglen meditation practices.
Here is a seven minute lovingkindness meditation with insight meditation teacher, Sharon Salzburg if you are unfamiliar with this practice.
And here is a five minute description, also from Beliefnet, of Shambala teacher Pema Chodron leading tonglen practice if you are unsure of this technique.
Let’s head into the holidays with a commitment to being grateful for every single moment in our lives and for every single person in our lives. The blessing of every single day will then become the most meaningful gift and truly, one that radiates outward as it “keeps on giving.”