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The greatest positive attitude is the attitude of gratitude.
The good news is that the core nature of our mind is that of gratitude.
As little babies, all of us started off from our place of joy and gratitude within. Our home within ourselves is our happy place and the energy of gratitude is available in limitless quantities here. We have simply gotten lost and forgotten our way back home to the grounded place within us.
How did we get lost, and where did we get lost? We got lost in our thinking-mind by getting engaged with the nonstop mental activity. When we are not interacting with the world around us, we engage in self-talk. Self-talk is the voice in our mind playing out. It is as if a recorded audio is on auto play in the mind. Whose voice? The voices of all the people in our life, the society around us, constantly telling us what to do and what not to do. It could be negative or it could be positive.
If you successfully distract your mind from this activity, it would end up doing something else. These include the dialogues we carry out mentally with an imaginary person, memories of past events, worries about the future, planning, working, calculating, computing, watching something (video such as YouTube or Netflix), listening to something (audio such as podcasts), reading, studying, focusing, concentrating, paying attention, fantasising, imagining, dreaming, the list goes on. We are habituated to this and it seems to be happening effortlessly and automatically although we are doing it.
Our mind gets tired of this constant uncontrollable, unstoppable habit and wants to rest. It actually gets exhausted. We easily know when our physical body is exhausted and we rest it by sitting down or lying down or taking a nap or a long sleep or having a warm bath or a nice body massage. But we have no metric or measure to find out when our mind is tired and we have no means to allow our mind to rest because any of the above resting that we give our physical body doesn’t rest the mind.
Mental exhaustion shows up in the form of the following: stress, worrying, indecisiveness, feeling restless, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, burnout, insomnia, impatience, constant irritation, and so on. No amount of sleeping will be enough to make this mental tiredness go away. In my opinion, long-term mental exhaustion is the root cause for all the chronic life-style diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and so on.
Positive self-talk is not an answer to this. It doesn’t help because the mind is already tired and we end up doing something more with the mind, so it is neither effective nor does it give rest. This is how we got lost. Lost in our thinking-mind.
Let us see if we can find our way back home. Simply pause for a minute and practice with the following experiment for a minute to three minutes and see how you feel.
Sit on a straight back chair with feet flat on the floor, the entire soles of the feet from tips of the toes to the heels firmly in contact with the floor. Keep your back erect; you may place a cushion behind your back for support if required, but do not lean back on an inclined backrest of the chair. Let your head be held straight, neck straight, shoulders square and relaxed. You may tilt the head slightly downward to gaze at a point on the floor in front of you, a few feet away from you.
Keep your eyes fixed on that spot for a few minutes without moving your eyeballs. Allow your eyes to be half open and half closed and hold that spot in a gentle gaze and not a stare. You are not looking there to see something but simply holding that spot in a gentle gaze.
Exhale with a loud sigh from your mouth and use gentle effort to empty your lungs as far as possible without straining too much. Then relax your body and allow the inhale to happen effortlessly through your nostrils. When you sense that the inhale is over, do not put any further effort to breathe in, but repeat the exhale from the mouth with the sound and gentle effort. I call this conscious breathing. Effort only for the out breaths and allowing in-breaths to happen effortlessly.
This entire process is called FGCB or fixed gazing with conscious breathing. I would suggest the reader to please pause reading and sit with FGCB for a couple of minutes before reading on. FGCB is only the first step to help us quieten the restless mind. But sometimes this is not enough because our minds are too distracted and restless. Some gentle physical body movements called energy movements are useful. I find one such set of movements, called deep crossing movements, the most helpful for instantly grounding ourselves. One may explore and find plenty of other energy movements, which have been provided as a free resource on my website.
Now let us explore the attitude of gratitude. Living from a place of gratitude within allows us to experience an almost magical life of synchronicity and flow rather than one of chaos and hurdles. We start to emit a glow of radiance and joy when gratitude is deeply cultivated in us. Even the physical body seems to become healthier, fitter, sleep better. Gratitude also improves our mental health and fosters better relationships.
For countless generations we all grew up to the admonitions such as “Be grateful; say thank you.” No wonder that we now universally believe that the only way to have gratitude is be able to say thank you. Most practices to cultivate an attitude of gratitude have one needing to express thanks to someone or something such as, God or some higher power or nature, for providing us with the air we breathe, the water we drink, and so on. This is of course a good practice, and it does work, well at least most of the time it does!
The important point to note is that for countless generations, humans have recognised the benefits of the attitude of gratitude. It benefits the one who says thank you in a deeper and more profound way than the one who receives the thanks. Probably the only folly then is the notion that gratitude needs the other. That we need someone to have given us something and to whom we need to express thanks to be able to feel grateful!
What then is gratitude?
Gratitude is a state of mind, it is a mindset, a paradigm, a stance, a back of the mind being state rather than an action-oriented one or a doing such as noticing all that we have and saying thank you. In fact, the state of being grateful is already the default state of being for all human beings! At the core of our being, we are already grateful. When we are born, we are already grateful, and we keep shining with radiance and joy. We simply need the skill to come back to this space within us whenever we choose to.
How do we cultivate an attitude of gratitude?
By learning to step out of our thinking-mind and into our aware mind. We are alive because we are aware. Each and every one of the trillion plus cells in our body is aware, alive with awareness. The thinking-mind is only a small part of the whole of us and we can learn to skillfully step out of the thinking-mind and its restless activity into our aware mind to rest in a state of non-doing being.
This can be better understood with experiential realisation rather than conceptual understanding by reading or studying. By sitting with FGCB and practicing deep crossing, one can glimpse at this experience momentarily. This can be followed up with a sitting gratitude meditation practice.
What do we go through in this practice? We stop engaging with the thoughts in the thinking mind and start noticing all that is happening in our body and around us. We notice and acknowledge these one by one. At this point, we are still operating primarily with our thinking-mind, but gradually the mental activity is slowing down and our awareness is expanding.
At one point, the thinking-mind goes quiet and we sense an expansiveness. This is our aware mind being fully alert, awake, and aware. There is no mental activity happening. We are not paying attention to anything specific, we are not noticing or acknowledging anything—we are simply being. And simply being is the same as being aware because we are our awareness.
Our aware mind opens up to the awareness that life is happening in the here and now. Life in its multidimensional, phenomenal panorama is happening within us and all round us. This awareness takes us back to our core state of gratitude.
We are now ready to begin cultivating this practice into a habit. Regularly practicing with the FGCB, deep crossing, and gratitude meditation will eventually help us acquire a skill of being able to shift into our place of gratitude within instantly by zooming out of our thinking-mind into our aware mind.
It becomes our default state of being even as we go through the ups and downs of normal life.