Gratitude, the Heartbeat of a Mindful Practice
By WITHIN teacher Landra Eliopoulos
Sitting still and being with our mind is not easy. It is a practice. When we begin our practice, we are often not sure what we’re looking for or even if we are doing it right. Our mind wants to know for how long and how many times we should practice to feel the benefits.
The experience of getting quiet, really quiet and sitting with ourselves requires a great deal of faith and patience.
As humans our primal brains are wired for negativity and have us scanning, often looking for what is wrong, what may go wrong, feelings of scarcity, not being enough, or not having enough. The time we invest in our meditation practice compounds, and every so often we can pause, reflect on the journey and take note of the impact meditation has had on our daily life. In my practice, I have found gratitude to be a useful tool.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend” ~ Melody Beattie
Taking inventory of what I am grateful for invites me to loosen my grip, expand my perspective to include what IS working, and notice that I’m enough and what I have IS enough. Gratitude is a mindfulness practice that allows us to notice the present moment and cultivate feelings of kindness and appreciation.
I notice increased self love and compassion, less judgement of myself and others, and the ability to balance and draw upon the wisdom of my body, heart AND mind.
I look at meditation as an experiment to cultivate deeper self-understanding, while building a stronger relationship within. Gratitude is a foundational part of my practice that keeps me coming back. Here are some examples of how I find gratitude to help mindful living and maintain connection to meditation practices:
A guide back to my heart. When I’m too much in my head and feeling disconnected from parts of myself and others, gratitude has the potential to open or expand our hearts. Gratitude creates space in the mind, orienting us towards positivity and possibility.
A path to motivation. At times when I am uninspired or I have lost my way, gratitude is there for me to come back to. There is a light-hearted, simplistic energy that gratitude inspires when things seem challenging or impossible.
An antidote to rigidity or holding something too tightly in the practice. At times it manifests in an overthinking mind, and other times as discomfort in my body. I skillfully point my awareness back to that what I’m most grateful for. I notice how gratitude feels in my heart, emotionally and physically.
A shift in perspective. I use gratitude as a way to widen my perspective and curiosity, plus acknowledge present feelings, thoughts and emotions. Invite gratitude and take note of what shifts and what stays the same. This doesn’t mean pushing away the bad or negative, but rather using gratitude as a tool to create space and essentially rewire our brains to look for what we appreciate and are thankful for.
“Gratitude is a gracious acknowledgement that of all that sustains us, a bow to our blessings, great and small” ~ Jack Kornfield
Here are a few ways to incorporate gratitude into your mindfulness and/or meditation practice:
Start small by making a list of all that you are grateful for. Afterwards, sit in silence and reflect on your list. Notice what feelings and sensations are most present.
Reflect on the people in your life that you are grateful for. Identify which of their qualities you are grateful for. Find a way to express that gratitude with them and notice how that feels.
Incorporate gratitude into meditation.
Embark on a gratitude walk outdoors. Take inventory of what you notice and appreciate through your senses (sight, smell, sound, touch, taste) right there in that moment.
I’d love to hear about your experience and experimentation with inviting gratitude into your life and into your practice! Leave a comment below, or come tell me in class.