The great Indian mystic, Narada, decides to visit God one day. He blithely makes his way through a lush forest strumming his vina and humming His praises.
He comes upon an old yogi with a long white beard sitting under a tree steeped in meditation. The yogi’s eyes flutter open as he senses Narada, and says, “You’re going to see God? O Narada, please ask Him when I’m going to be enlightened. I’ve been working so hard for so many lives, I’d like to know how much farther I have to go.”
Narada answers, “Sure, I’ll ask him.”
And he continues on his way. Then he encounters a young man singing and dancing in a grove of trees. Narada almost walks right by him unseen, then halts to say, “I’m going to see God. Do you have any requests to make of Him?”
But the young man, immersed in his song and dance, is oblivious to Narada, who walks on.
Narada visits with God for a few days, then returns to his home through the forest. He goes to the sage and says, “God says you have three more lives to reach enlightenment.”
The yogi flings down his mala (prayer beads) and scriptures in a rage. “So many? So many lives? I’ve been working incessantly denying myself just about everything. How can I have so many more?”
Narada leaves the infuriated yogi, approaches the young man, and says, “I don’t know if you heard me when I passed you a few days ago, but I asked God about you. I asked Him when you’ll be enlightened. God said you have as many lives as there are leaves on the trees in this grove.”
This time the young man hears Narada. His eyes light up with joy. “Only so many? There are so many trees in this forest and in this world and I’ve already come so far? Oh, blessed that I am!” He sings and dances with even more delight and abandon.
Instantly, the young man attains enlightenment.
Ahhh, gratitude. It’s the breath of life, of receiving. Gratitude, like your in-breath, is inhaling, holding, and relishing all that you have. It’s downright nourishing, like a bowl of hot soup as summer ripens into fall.
Here are seven simple ways to open to gratitude:
1. What are you thankful for?
Take a moment to reflect on who you are, are becoming, and yet to be. All that you have, all that you’ve learned and accomplished this year. Wow!
Or have you been moved by someone’s kindness or love, a stunning sunset, the bread on your table, or this year’s experiences and gifts? There’s always something to be grateful for, however small or humble.
2. Pause for a moment,
take a step back, and look with fresh eyes at the bouquet of fresh flowers, the bowl of steaming soup before you, or your child’s smile. Pause to look at the larger landscape of your life.
Take in what you’re grateful for. Perhaps it’s a dear friend, your family, a pet, a gorgeous ocean day, or whatever brings a smile to your lips and warmth in your heart.
Receive by seeing and feeling the experience or memory, then draw it deep into your chest and body. Let your cells vibrate to it.
4. Turn negatives into positives
When situations or relationships get challenging, looking at what is there instead of what you wish was there brings you more ease, tolerance, and patience.
One way is to know that a challenge holds a gift for you. Embrace your vulnerability. Turn towards your growth opportunity.
5. Look for the silver lining
No matter how difficult or dire the situation, look for what keeps you moving through it. Perhaps a friend or neighbor’s kindness, a nurse’s smile, your pet’s love, or feeling more compassion for yourself or others.
This does not mean denying or minimizing what you’re going through, but looking at what’s in your half-full glass.
It’s a practice to look for and find the light in challenging situations.
6. Practice heart breath
Your heart, like your lungs, needs inflow and outflow. For emotional wellness, your heart needs to breathe in love, appreciation, care, and connection to yourself, others, and the world. And breathe out the same.
Studies from the Heartmath Institute “repeatedly show appreciation is among the most effective—even to the point of being mentally, physically and behaviorally transforming.”
Practice breathing a few times from your heart, as you inhale what you’re grateful for.
7. Tell it out loud
Share your gratitude in the moment. Tell your lover, your friend, the barista at your favorite cafe. And if the moment passes, express your appreciation later with a note, a phone call, a flower.
I am grateful for so very much…the amazing people in my life, their love and friendship, my work, the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area that is home, persimmons, the multitude of nature spirits around my house, and the mystery and magic of our world.
And I am grateful to you for reading this and the opportunity to share with you.
To get you started, what are you grateful for? And in what other ways do you practice gratitude? I’d love for you to share here.