Developing Gratitude

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Emotionally Stuck

Gratitude is not called the king of emotions but often it feels like it to me, gratitude as an emotion has the ability to make any negative emotional state that is stuck, move. Negative emotional states get stuck because we are focussing on, through our thinking, what we don’t have instead of appreciating and being thankful for what we do. We cling onto that emotion mentally, whether we find it pleasant or not and feed it with our desire to have something other than what we already have. Mental clinging can arise because we like something, this is obvious, but we can just as easily cling onto and get attached to what we don’t like, as we try to push it away.

The very act of wanting something to go away gives it energy, gives it our attention. This makes it our focal point and also the lens through which we view the world. In the same way that when we meditate on our breathing the breath becomes clearer the longer we turn our attention to it and our mind takes the breath as a focal point, in the same way all our attention can be turned towards and absorbed by something that causes us pain. This then becomes all we can see; it taints our thinking and our lives.

Getting Unstuck

When we feel sad or depressed and these emotional states stay for long periods of time it is because we are focussing on what we don’t have, instead of what we do. If we stop focusing on what we don’t have and start focussing on the things that we do, the spell of these mind states start to break and will eventually lift.

The practice of gratitude turns our attention and thinking patterns towards what we do have and also on how fortunate we are. We can be grateful for many things and often the most mundane things in our lives are things that we can appreciate and be thankful that we have. Friends, family, ability to read this article, having a computer to view it, chair to sit on, roof over our head, food on our plate, each breath etc.

In Australia we are fortunate to live in a country free of war, I have a roof over my head, loving wife, clothing to wear, food when I want to eat it and good friends. I have a warm bed and a pillow, fresh air and live in a country with subsidised health care and good amount of social freedom. The list is endless, there is always someone worse off then us, and we all have so much to be grateful for.

The Practice

Gratitude can be practiced as a formal mediation and also as a daily ritual, it has the power to move mountains and if practiced daily has the ability to change your life. Even if you are not emotionally stuck it can and should be practiced as soon as you feel any irritation or negative attraction, this is a sign that your attention has turned towards the negative aspects of your life instead of the positive. The practice of gratitude will change these mental patterns before any harm is done and therefore affect all aspects of your life, consider it a protection.

Seated Meditation

In this meditation you think of everything that you have to be grateful for, start with the mundane, the obvious, my eyesight and ability to read, chair I am sitting on, clothes I am wearing, each breathe I take etc. These things may seem simple but it is the simple things that we don’t normally recognise that can build the strongest feeling of gratitude.

Take a comfortable sitting posture that you can stay in without moving for the desired length of your meditation. Close your eyes and take a deep breath then breathe out letting all thoughts and tension drop away. Slowly scan from the top of your head to your feet and release any knots and tensions you come across by breathing into them.

Make a half smile on your face, relax once more

Now slowly and gently repeat as thoughts in your mind:

”Thankyou for my (insert here)”
“I am so blessed”
”Thankyou for my (insert here)”
“I am so fortunate”

Keep gently repeating these phrases to yourself softly, in no hurry and really mean it, smile when you say it. The key here is to develop the feeling of being grateful that comes with saying these phrases. Once the feeling has developed pass it onto the next thing you can think of, once you have finished turn your attention to the feeling of being grateful itself and allow it to grow.

Now picture someone you have gratitude towards in a happy state of mind and in your mind then gently say

”Thankyou for all you have done for me”
“I am blessed to have you in my life”
Keep focussing on them in your mind and allow the feelings of gratitude to grow.

Next send your thoughts of gratitude out into your neighbourhood, suburb, city, state, country and keep increasing the range

”Thankyou for all that I have, I am truly blessed”

Informal Practice

You can cultivate gratitude throughout the day, start by noticing the little things and be thankful in your mind for them. Start when you first wake up in the morning, say thankyou for the nights sleep, that you a have a pillow, a bed. Continue to acknowledge different things throughout the day and watch how your life starts to change.

If you feel irritated, sad or feel like you don’t have enough and really want something else, ignore that feeling and thought pattern and start reflecting on what you do have. All states of mind that cause us pain have ungratefulness at their core, the feeling of wanting something else other then what we have now. It is only when we start being grateful for what we do have that these feeling dissolve and our life can begin to flow again.

The interesting thing is that when we start focussing on what we have instead of what we haven’t, our life starts to change, it begins to flow more freely and what we need begins to come more easily into our life.

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This article was written by Stephen Procter, instructor from Tai Chi Health for Life, Australian College of Tai Chi & Qi Gong and Meditation Instructor from Meditation in the Shire, Kirrawee NSW, Australia. If you wish to post this article on another website or in a publication please respect the author and reference / link back to this website, thank you

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