Meditation can take many different forms. It is the way to deep inner peace, but there is not just one way, there are many. Gratitude is one of my favorite methods of attaining and experiencing peace. If you don't already have a daily gratitude practice, there is no time like the present to begin one.
The simple practice of focusing on elements of your experience that bring you peace, joy, happiness, safety or any other positive sensation can have the effect of changing your emotional state, and even altering your perception of the world. A gratitude practice can help you to get in the habit of focusing on goodness and beauty, and tends to break the habit of compulsive complaining. Ongoing studies being conducted at the University of California, Davis show that a gratitude practice improves physical and emotional health. Furthermore, those with gratitude practices make more progress in working toward and attaining goals. Children who practice gratitude show more positive attitudes toward their schools and families, show less jealousy, and are more likely to want to share and help out.
A gratitude practice also tends to dissolve compulsive wanting: the endless string of desires that often begins with the sadly common, but untrue, thought, "I could finally be happy if I had that" (wallet, bank account, handbag, person, sweater, car -- you can fill in the blank with your personal desire object/objects). This thought is fundamentally untrue because you have the ability to be happy now, with or without your object of desire, if you choose to be. That compulsive thought of wanting can be transformed into, "I am happy with what I already have. I have so much." Dissolving the compulsion of wanting tends not only to lead to contentment in your life, but it has been known to attract good fortune and success.
There is not one gratitude practice to integrate into your day, but several. Here is one of my favorites:
Choose to become mindful of simple moments throughout your day for which you can feel gratitude. For example, focus on your feeling gratitude when a warm cup of coffee or tea finds its way into your hands, and finally into your body. Don't take it for granted. When you rest your body in a chair, focus on the pleasure of it, and take a moment to feel grateful for the chair's generous support, supporting your body and giving you a moment of rest. If you are wearing shoes, perhaps take a moment to notice how effectively your shoes protect your soles from the many harsh textures and temperatures of the ground. There is so much in a day to be grateful for. Even as you read these words, air is entering your lungs and nourishing your body with oxygen, enlivening you and keeping you alive. Breathing is so simple and commonplace, and yet when it is taken away, its preciousness is revealed. Don't take it for granted just because you've got it: feel it, and be grateful for it.
As the Buddha wisely said, "There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way." And as the 13th century German mystic, Meister Eckhart, wisely quipped, "If the only prayer you ever said in your whole life was 'thank you,' that would be enough."
I would love to know your experiences with a gratitude practice, or your favorite gratitude quotes. Please use the comment section below. Thank you.