“Be grateful to everyone.”
~ Lojong Slogan 13
The month of November holds the day of Thanksgiving, but it’s an ideal month to focus on cultivating gratitude for the many blessings in our lives and the common wonders all around us.
Gratitude requires humility, openness, wonder and care. It’s worth it to bring more awareness of appreciation into our daily lives, because gratitude is the foundation of happiness.
Gratitude is appreciation for the smallest, simplest moments. Because, after all, what is life if not a collection of moments?
By cultivating a habit of recognizing and voicing our gratitude, we gradually learn to develop genuine appreciation for all things, all people, all situations—even the ones that are difficult or unpleasant on the surface. We realize that it is the most challenging situations and difficult people that teach us and help us continue to grow and evolve into better humans.
Just by being able to read these words, I have so much to be grateful for. I am literate. I have access to books and knowledge and wisdom. I can see. I can hear and taste and smell and touch, too. I have arms and legs and a spine that move in many directions. I am flexible and strong and balanced, even if I can’t master every advanced asana. I am loved and I love. I have a family and friends and a home and a bed and food to eat and water to drink.
My aim—as a mother, partner, teacher, writer, yogi and human—is to focus on what I’m so blessed to have and who I’m blessed to be, rather than dwelling on what I lack or envying others and thinking of who I’d rather be. This, in turn, makes me happier, which enables me to see outside myself and be more compassionate and giving in my interactions with others.
Especially throughout this 11th month, I try to spend a little time every day feeling and expressing gratitude in these four ways.
I stand up tall and press my hands together at the center of my chest. I spread my fingers wide and feel the symmetry of palm on palm, each finger pressing into its twin. I take a deep breath in through the nose and exhale through the mouth with a sigh. I raise my arms up overhead and stretch.
I appreciate my ability to breathe deeply. I appreciate that I’m not sick. I appreciate that I’m able to stand and walk and go where I please.
I keep a gratitude journal, mindfully writing down five things (or however many) for which I am grateful in a diary each evening after the moon has risen. I like to do it in poetic verse, but prose, bullet points, doodles or any other written expression of our thankfulness works equally as well.
Today, I am grateful for my child’s giggle, my lover’s caress, the shadows of the trees dancing, a cup of sweet coffee with almond milk.
3. Grateful Devotion
I bow my head and dedicate today’s practice to a being to whom I am grateful. I send out metta—the loving, kind wish that you, I and all beings may be safe, healthy, happy and free from suffering.
I think of my grandmothers, Ganesh, my parents, my yoga teachers and dear friends. But also, I aim to extend and expand more, also considering acquaintances, strangers and ultimately even my enemies.
4. Grateful Words
I look someone in the eye and say “thank you” and really mean it. I try to do this with my partner every day, just thank him for washing the dishes or diapers or cooking a delicious lunch, and also with someone else—a store clerk, a student, a coworker.
This is a beautiful moment. It is, after all—with all its multifaceted creation and destruction, grace and grit, transcendence and squalor—a wonderful life.
Life is even more wonderful when it’s infused with genuine gratitude.
Michelle Margaret published her first book, Yoga Schmoga, in 2013 and she’s also the author of a practical chakra guide called Flow and Flower. She has been writing prolifically for elephant journal for the past three years. Born and raised in Texas, she came of age in Austin, lived in San Francisco and London and has traveled to Canada, Mexico, Europe, India and Colombia. Michelle created Yoga Freedom in 2002. She now lives at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala with her life partner, daughter and black cat. Catch up with her on facebook.