Gratitude as a Practice

Photo by Michele Venne

Yoga itself is a practice. So is pranayama, asana, mantra, meditation, and other yoga tools and techniques. One benefit of yoga is to live life more artfully. If we reside in a space of peace and calm, we’re able to respond rather than react. If we’re able to do that most of the time, then we might find events and situations have an outcome that is more favorable to our preferences. This, then, leads us to have more to be grateful for.

In the psychological realm, professionals might suggest a gratitude journal, daily reflection, or counting blessings as a way to increase positive thoughts. Some schools of philosophy may say, “what you focus on, manifests.” Without going into the quantum mechanics of that statement, consider the lens through which you view life. If you tend toward glass-half-empty thinking, then you may recognize more events and situations and people in your life that aren’t to your preference. In other words, those that will give you more of what you look at. If you lean toward the glass-half-full thinking, then you may recognize more events and situations and people in your life that are to your preference. Again, those that will give you more of what you look at.

To think about what we’re grateful for, to reflect on those people and situations, directs us to recognize more of the same in our lives. By writing down what it is we’re grateful for, it offers an opportunity to reflect back on that list at a later time, and also to solidify our thoughts and feelings about those people and situations. In yogic “thinking”, there are no “good” or “bad” emotions or events. Everything just shows up. It’s our preferences that make us label something as one thing or another. Those who accept life on a moment-by-moment basis can often find the gratitude in what many of us would label “bad” situations, such as accidents, illness, or loss of possessions and people.

If we use yoga as a practice to relax more with what is (what shows up moment to moment), and we step back from labeling those moments as for or against our preferences, then maybe we can find gratitude in whatever shows up. If we aren’t there yet (it’s all a practice!), perhaps we sit with a notebook at the end of the day and reflect. What are five things/events/people/situations that we’re grateful for that day? Safe driving, the good health of a friend, enjoying reading a book, making a meal that turns out well, having money in the bank, technology at our fingertips, learning something new, a suggestion from a family member, a positive comment from a coworker, etc. can all make it onto the page of a gratitude journal. Try this practice for thirty days. Commit to recording five different things each evening. At the end of thirty days, how do you feel? Has your life changed at all? Have you? A practice of gratitude is a way of saying thank you to the universe.