THE BLOG
11/19/2014 09:38 pm ET Updated Jan 19, 2015

Giving Thanks: Practicing Gratitude Like the Huichols

Fall gives us an opportunity to go inside, to reflect, to harvest the light of the summer. It is also a perfect time to take stock of how we practice gratitude. A look at the Huichols, an indigenous people of Mexico, is a good place to start.

The Huichols give great emphasis to gratitude. In fact, they center their existence on it. They are thankful, first and foremost, for just being alive. Likewise, happiness is their starting point, not their end game.

What's more, the Huichols recognize that the strength of their bodies is directly related to the strength of their souls, including their souls' bond to all that exists. With this come peace, joy, and love, as well as good health in body, mind, and spirit. For the Huichols, this sublime state of balance is what gratitude is all about.

So, this fall, practice gratitude like the Huichols. Begin here:

1. Overcome boredom.
Some say the opposite of gratitude is boredom. And the best way to overcome boredom is to find what's new in what's old. The Huichols always witness life and honor its simplest gifts, starting with waking up each morning to live another day. With this perspective, boredom can't take hold. Each new moment carries with it the chance of seeing something new, even in the most routine tasks.

2. Celebrate with purpose.
One of the most sacred of the Huichol ceremonies is the "Dance of the Deer." Practiced for thousands of years, it invites people to dance their prayers, their desires and dreams, onto the altar of Mother Earth. The Dance of the Deer, usually celebrated outdoors, can go on for hours or even days at a time. To outsiders, it may seem endless. But, beyond a doubt, there is great purpose and meaning to the dance. And it begins and ends with intention -- an important lesson as you celebrate things big or small in your life.

3. Heal your wounds.
If you have trouble feeling grateful, perhaps unhealed wounds -- emotional sores involving feelings such as anger or fear -- are blocking the light in your heart. For the Huichols, fire, called Tai, is regarded as the most valuable gift of the gods, as it enables the Huichols to have visions. Similarly, you can begin to heal your wounds with fire. Sit, for instance, in front of a lit fireplace or candle and then, with a focus on your breath, visualize the flame coming into your heart, your throat, or whatever part of your body relates to the wound.

Finally, remember that the choice is always yours. Like the Huichols, you can choose to practice gratitude -- and make happiness your starting point.