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“The wolf who wins? The one you feed.” ~ Unknown
Ayurveda views gratitude as a practice to cultivate more sattva, or a clear and present state of being.
Research has also shown that increasing gratitude will benefit most people, even when faced with serious adversity or life circumstances.
I can speak personally to the positive experience of using these tools as a way to move past even crushing life experiences, finding the deeper resources within to cultivate growth and strength in these times that fall upon us all. Often in these moments, we feel hopeless and helpless; seeing the light on the other side of the darkness can seem impossible.
Empowering ourselves to become our own healers is the beauty of what Ayurveda and yoga have to share with us. As a talented and insightful young writer from Australia I just recently came across said so perfectly in a song about the ever-changing and often unreliable mind:
“There are two worlds at war,
One dark, the other light
Who dares wins you say?
The one I feed in my mind at night.”
Beginning your day with a gratitude practice sets you up to enter the world in a way in which you can more skillfully engage with your work, family, and any potentially difficult scenarios you may (and probably will!) encounter.
Having steadiness of mind brings us closer to lasting states of sukha, which is happiness or contentment, with the eventual goal of transcending the mind and its fluctuations completely.
The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali also make mention of a related concept called pratipaksha bhavana, which is a method or recommendation that when faced with difficult circumstances or thought patterns, we try and see things through an opposite lens, gaining new perspective and opening the potential to shift ourselves into a more beneficial and effective state of mind.
Seven things we can do each day to increase gratitude in our lives:
1. Upon waking, begin with a prayer of gratitude for the people in your life. Both those who bring ease and for those who bring hardship. Both these groups provide you with the ability to grow, learn, love, forgive, and become a more authentic version of yourself. What lessons have you been gifted?
2. Create a dedicated healing space in your home or room for contemplation and prayer. The Northeast corner of your house or room is especially auspicious as per Vastu (Vedic Feng Shui). This helps build the habit of continuing a meditation or gratitude practice as well as giving you reminders throughout the day to practice, practice, practice, and stay grateful, grateful, grateful.
3. Spend a few moments in awareness and breathe into an area of your body that has pain or in some way feels “stuck.” Where breath goes, prana follows, and this “stuckness”is a signal that something needs to be addressed. Breathing in the area brings the body’s awareness there, and with that, healing begins.
4. Try and spend 10 minutes each day reading from a spiritual book or listening to uplifting music. We take in more stimulus than ever these days, much of it filled with negativity and overstimulation and much more than we can ever hope to process or mentally digest. This tires us out and increases tamasic, or pessimistic and lethargic tendencies within us.
5. In the morning or evening sit for at least 10 minutes of quiet meditation or contemplation. You can simply follow your inhale and exhale for four breaths in and then follow again for four breaths out. You can focus on the sound “So” on the inhale and “Hum” on the exhale if that helps increase your focus. Meditation doesn’t need to be complex or filled with all sorts of visualizations, and can fit with whatever spiritual (or nonspiritual) tradition you most connect with.
6. Begin a writing practice. The physical act of writing itself is therapeutic by bridging the gap between the subconscious and conscious mind, releasing potential stagnation and allowing our emotions to flow out of us in a steady and comfortable way. This is different than typing on a computer, although that may have some benefits as well. Start with 5-10 minutes first thing in the morning or just before bed. Make this a habitual part of your day, in the same way brushing your teeth is. You just do it!
7. Have faith in yourself. When we have faith, we are content and we are satisfied. Our hearts are open, we are better to the people in our personal lives and those we will interact with in public.
“It does not really matter whether you are a believer or a nonbeliever or a skeptic. You can be a nonbeliever, but at the same time lead a happy and successful life, if you have faith in you. You do not have to believe in Amma, or in a God who resides up above in the sky on a golden throne. It is enough if you have faith in yourself. If you don’t have faith in yourself, then there is not much to gain even if you believe in God. Faith in God is to strengthen your faith in you, the faith in your own Self. This is, in other words, called Self-confidence, confidence in your own Self. If that is not there you cannot succeed in life, whatever your field may be. Self-confidence is nothing but mental balance, courage, and control over your own mind to confront the problems of life. You cannot escape from the problems of life; they are inevitable, unavoidable. How are you going to face them if you do not have faith in yourself? You cannot.” ~ Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi