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!