The Art and Heart of Gratitude
What is it about thankfulness that is so moving? Why can we, even in the depths of great difficulty, experience a moment of deep gratitude?
Strikingly, the moments in my life where I was most in touch with gratitude were not in the good times, but in the darkest ones. Most days, however, are run of the mill days, and on these, I must choose to cultivate the attitude of gratitude. In the everydayness, it is too easy to take life for granted.
Historically, giving thanks has been a ritual act of prayer. Perhaps all acts of gratitude are really acts of prayer. I surmise that we all feel connected to something greater than ourselves when feeling deeply thankful.
Benefits of Living a Thankful Life
Want a little well-being and joy? Put a little prayer or meditation in your life. Giving and receiving gratitude has been shown to help people feel better about life, exercise more, work harder, and improve relationships. Other studies have found lowered blood pressure, decreased asthma symptoms, more ability to cope with illness, and even longer life.
Simple Tips for Cultivating A Grateful Life
Food as a blessing. It is out of vogue, but take a moment to appreciate the food on your plate and hear yourself saying, “Thank you.”
Your body as a temple. We spend far too much time decrying what doesn’t work about our bodies. While bathing, make it a practice to appreciate your skin, limbs, ridges, and curves when running your hand or washcloth over your body. Appreciate your own sensuality and your ability to heal.
Meditation as a peaceful way station. To be available for gratitude, we need ways to calm the busyness of our minds. Pay attention to how much time is spent processing judgmental thoughts and planning for catastrophe. A meditation or centering prayer practice allows us to step away from the shark tank of our small mind and rest for a moment in the grandeur of space.
Light someone up today. I have been blessed with a teacher who manages to make eye contact with every person he meets and has a way of expressing gratitude towards them that lights people up. When was the last time you really looked at someone face-to-face and said, “Thank you?”
Movement as an act of grace. In our culture of ambition, we think the only way to be active is to throw ourselves into steaming hot yoga rooms or push ourselves until we can’t walk for several days. Instead, what if you listened, really listened to your body as you move through the day. The underlying message is, “I accept myself. I am taking care of myself. And doggone it, I like me.”
Wishing you many moments when your heart is full and running over in thankfulness.
By Cynthia M. Allen
Cynthia M. Allen is a partner in Future Life Now which specializes in wellbeing and growth. She is a Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner and Bones for Life trainer. She sees babies to adults as well as offering classes. She can be reached at 513.541.5720, www.futurelifenow.com or email her at CynthiaAllen@futurelifenow.com.