Supreme (anuttamaḥ) joy (sukha) is attained (lābhaḥ) through the practice of gratitude (saṁtoṣāt).
PRACTICAL LIVING The human mind often tends towards that which is not working, or that which we do not have. This puts us in a rat race to be problem-solving or trying to get a better job, phone, partner, financial status or life-purpose. Life then becomes a pursuit of that which we do not have. And that which we do have, or that which we are already, gets hidden behind the curtains of the subconscious mind. This sūtra emphasizes the importance of practicing contentment, or gratitude. Yes, it is a practice. For some people, this comes easily. For others, it takes constant practice to re-wire the mind to look at that which we already have, that who we already are, and more profoundly, gratitude for life itself.
Being grateful does not mean that we don’t try to change our lives. It simply means that we pause every so often and remind ourselves of how wonderful life is. Gratitude, when practiced whole-heartedly (not just intellectually but emotionally as well), can connect people more closely and help us to see the ‘cup half full’ more often. It often leads us to see that what we have is enough, and who we already are is enough. We are worthy people just the way we are!
Positive psychology, a modern branch of psychology which looks at creating a positive life, has conducted a lot of research on gratitude and lists this practice as one of the essential ingredients to a happy life. One beautiful practice that Tal Ben-Shahar suggests in his book titled ‘Happier’ is to write gratitude letters to people you love. Once written, visit the person and read them the letter out loud. There is no better gift that being told how much we are loved and appreciated! Who are you going to write your first letter to?
Other ways to practice gratitude are:
a. write 3 things you are grateful for daily – make it a sacred ritual.
b. every day before falling asleep, tell the closest person to you why you are grateful to have them in your life.
c. every morning, look at the mirror and tell yourself how grateful you are for being who you are, be specific.
IN THE YOGA WORLD Life is simple, but the human mind enjoys complicating it. We believe we need so many things in order to be happy. In a spiritual path, everything we need is within us. As we practice gratitude and as it becomes a deeper part of who we are, it becomes clear that re-directing our minds to a state of gratitude works better than any external object or condition we are trying to pursue. It is more subtle than the external stuff we are running after. But the practice is to constantly remind ourselves that we have a profound potential for compassion and love inside of us 24/7. The peace that we are all searching for is something we have access to all the time. Oddly enough, the mind keeps repeating the story that fulfillment is somewhere out there. Knowing that I can tap into a clear wisdom within anytime of the day is a pretty good thing to be grateful for in my opinion!
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON A warm smile covers my face when I think of Brenda. A mother, grandmother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and teacher, she is a bright presence in this world. Her sense of humor lightens up any situation. Her hugs and warmth open up hearts. Her thirst for being alive and living a full life is awing. Her presence transmits stability – you know she will give what she has. She is a beautiful balance of a soft heart and a firm back. There is so much gratitude in my heart for spending time with you. Thank you dear friend, for who you are! Love you.
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and next week we will discuss action and discipline!
Gorgeous post Lucia. Great reminder as well.
Gratitude is simplicity. I can live with and I can live without. I have been rich and I have been poor. Gratitude is the simple things. I am grateful for the things that money cannot buy…eyelashes brushing against my cheek when I’m given a kiss, encouragement from someone when I can’t find my own, a smile from a stranger, summer grass on my bare feet. When my physical pain becomes unbearable, I become grateful for my pain…it reminds me that I am alive and that I have a lot of living to do… and for that, I am grateful.
You are so right, Lucia and Melissa! We have so much to be grateful for. We need to take time to stop and smell the roses…
When I saw that Brenda is your person of inspiration, it brought tears to my eyes! For sure not sad tears, grateful tears. She is such an inspiration in my life. All the things you said about her are spot on! She exudes gratitude all of the time.
I often get caught up in the rat race.. Our lives are in a state of crazy right now. We have sold our house, trying to decide what to do and where to go, trying to change my professional life, looking for peace. Just last week as i was all in a tizzy, Chris, my wonderful and stable husband who always finds gratitude very simply, said, “you have a great life! Just breathe and settle down,.” and this I must. We have so much, not including all the stuff! Let us be grateful each day!
Gratitude is so calming and peaceful. I am trying to practice more gratefulness in my life and I try to involve others too (my family and friends). During the practice of gratitude everyone seems to lighten and love exudes out of our bodies. For such a simple practice, the effect on oneself and others is so profound. On a recent cross-country trip I suggested before bed to my friends that we all say something we are grateful for. It was so fun to watch my friend’s son (a young 20-something new father) blurt out 10 things he was grateful for – everything from his new wife, daughter, mom, to me! We all went to bed with smiles and warmth in our hearts.
Gratitude is simple yet so complex. It has always been easy for me to be grateful for a colorful sunset, a yummy meal, or the smell of a flowering tree, they absolutely bring momentary joy. As grateful as I am for those fleeting moments, it has been much more powerful being able to find gratitude regardless of the circumstances going on in my life or in my families lives.
By practicing gratitude (not daily but often), I have discovered the potential it has to change not only my life but those around me. Acknowledging gratitude for others and myself has had a domino effect, it is contagious!
Meister Eckhart wrote: “If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present. Living life like each moment is a miracle opens our perception to things we have often been blind to or ignored. We often think that we are entitled to things and expect them. When we take out the expectation for things we become grateful. When we let go and surrender we become more free to observe the things that make us happy and bring us joy. By observation and awareness we learn how to appreciate others and let them know their importance. Gratitude is found in the simplicity and abundance of life and for that I am grateful.
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