Without realizing it, we take so much for granted. This happens because our mind is not particularly concerned with things that work well, like the earth continually growing our food, or the sun always appearing over the horizon at dawn, or hot water flowing out of the faucet when we turn it on, or that our entire life we have had more than enough to eat each day. It is not until we travel or have an emergency and are deprived of these ordinary things that we realize what blessings have been continually bestowed upon us.
Gratitude is the recognition that we have been given many gifts, not through our own actions, but through the generosity of other people and also non-human sources such as animals, the rain, the earth, or God. The gifts can be material (clean water for bathing and drinking) or non-material (emotional support). My first Zen teacher used to say, “When people tell me that they feel overwhelmed with gratitude, I know that their meditation practice is working.” When the heart and mind begin to settle and open, people begin to appreciate that their life is composed, not of an ongoing series of difficulties, but of a continual flow of gifts.
In Mindful Eating-Conscious Living we have several exercises that help us open to the blessings of having a body (whatever its condition) and food to nourish it (whether we like what we are served or not). These exercises include Gratitude for the Body and Looking Deeply Into Our Food.
Research shows that people who do a simple practice, writing down several things they are grateful for at the end of the day, have an increase in all of the following: positive mood, satisfaction with life, optimism about the coming week, feelings of connection with others, and even the quality of their sleep.
Each time we sit with our body in meditation, each time we sit down to eat (you do sit down to eat, and to meditate, right?) we have an opportunity to touch in with our innate sense of gratitude and to add to our satisfaction with eating and with our whole life. This is a simple and effective way to nourish Heart Hunger.
Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “ In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”
Pause and ask, “What am I grateful for right now?” What comes up?
For one week, each night before you go to sleep, can you try thinking of three things you were grateful for that happened during the day?
Jan Chozen Bays, USA