Gratitude – an Attitude?

Recently, I listened to a podcast on my favorite podcast library, Soundstrue Weekly Wisdom, from Eckart Tolle; a highly popular spiritual teacher. He was talking about the widely debated topic of “manifestation” – commonly seen as the creation what your own life, to put it simply. His point was simple. Conscious manifesting starts in the present moment by appreciating what you have (or are) today. Gratitude today is what manifests tomorrow, in other words.

As I understand it, the way it works is that gratitude for what is actual in our life puts us in touch with a certain feeling, joy or satisfaction, which prepares us to welcome goodness; today and ahead of us. That feeling starts now, by opposition of starting in the hypothetical future when/if we (perhaps) get what we wish for.

Purusha – we are already complete

Tolle’s point aligns well with ancient yoga philosophy. Yoga says that we go around and live our lives thinking and feeling that we are not complete – not good enough, not rich enough, etc. What makes us think and feel like that is called mala, or “the veil of dust” covering our consciousness and inner wisdom. We then can build our lives believing we lack something, and our happiness depends on it. Truth is, says yoga, we are already complete and perfect, nothing is missing. Purusha is Sanskrit for the fullness, or already “perfection”, of our true nature. Our sense of lack comes from the fact that we forgot our true nature.

Desire as a way to return back to source

Through our practice and intentions, we can shift our perspective from a sense of lack to a sense of fullness, and what comes on top is just pure “bonus” 😊. One key here is that desires and wishes are not bad per se, but desires are what creates life and sustains it. In that sense desires connects us to source, to the longing for depth and for knowing our deeper nature, which is good and full. When we realize this truth and experience it with our whole body-mind-heart system, gratitude emerges naturally, and we can let go of any attachment to the exact fulfilment of our desires. Our desires become fulfilled more easily, because we are already in the “gratitude attitude,” if you will: we are a state of fulfilment.

In real life, we obviously all have desires for joy and happiness in terms of career, lifestyle, relationship etc. Instead of cutting abruptly from such desires, yoga invites us to contemplate our deeper nature, realize our fulness, and thus being grateful for what we have and are. Desires anchored in this current feeling can only bring fulfilment, whether they happen or not.

Note that this is not about thinking “positive only“ and dismissing the challenges we encounter, but rather about re-wiring how we view challenges – e.g. an opportunity to know ourselves – and using everyday situations to see how life is already good for us. Recently I was contemplating how I eventually would like to live – questiong… apartment, house, more space, location, access to nature? – and I got somehow got up in my own drama, thinking that I could not get what I wanted for whatever reason. I went down the street to run errands and met this man with a yellow bag. He smiles at me as he is showing the magazine is selling “Hus forbi” (“Home gone,” in English, a monthly paper written for and sold by homeless people). I walk to the man, smile back at him and buy a paper, and I think to myself “thank you for reminding me of the abundance I already have! At least I have a nice, warm, and cozy place to call home.” My heart filed up with gratitude for him, and my life.

Allowing gratitude

I grew up in France. In France as in many other countries, kids learn to say thank you, because it is polite. In Danish, thank you and gratitude have the same etymology (tak-nemlighed). Although it is always nice to be thanked, a strictly polite “thanks” can also feel dry and disconnected from a sincere expression of gratitude. I know I can convince myself I have to be thankful to someone or something for what they do, because I want to be a good boy, and yet simultaneously develop resentment towards them, because deep inside such thankfulness is unauthentic. I might not have allowed myself any right to say no for what I got, thus the insincerity.  

To my experience, authentic gratitude comes by itself and cannot be forced. Instead, it can be invited by creating space for it and allowing it. It does not have to take 3 years of daily yoga practice (although nothing is wrong with that 😉), but just a few minutes with closed eyes, to happen. Try this:

  1. Sit comfortably in a quiet space, close your eyes
  2. Take a few deep breaths, open to the sensations in your body, let your weight descend towards the ground and the support beneath or/and behind you.
  3. As you inhale, welcome yourself as you are. As you exhale, let go of any stories or sense of lack, imperfection about yourself. Inhale and welcome this moment as it is, perfect as it is. Exhale and release any expectation about how you should feel or act.
  4. Take a moment and bring to your awareness something you are grateful for from your everyday life. Maybe it is your morning coffee, your home, your meditation practice, or your ride to work…
  5. Then bring someone or a pet you know and appreciate deeply to your awareness. Allow appreciation to come up, naturally, and begin noticing the bodily sensations associated with this feeling.
  6. Then, drop the image or thought about this person or pet, and stay with the sensations alone. What happens in your body? How does gratitude and appreciation actually feel like in your inner field of awareness?
  7. Let yourself be in that state for a little while. If you become distracted by a thought, notice it, and return to the sensations you were just experiencing. With no attachment, simply notice this bodily information associated with the inner feeling of gratitude.
  8. When you feel ready, bring your hands in front of you, and thank yourself – as you would thank a dear friend – for your time.
  9. Open your eyes, and try to perceive the objects around you with gratitude for what they are, as they are. During your day, try to go back to the memory of the sensations from time to time, and notice if you are able to navigate your interactions from a place of authentic gratitude.

Let me know how it goes!

From the depths of my heart, I sincerely thank you for reading this and your willingness to be sincere and naturally grateful. I look forward to seeing you soon, perhaps at one of the upcoming HeartWise Yoga events.

With gratitude,

Cedric

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