How can we start cultivating thankfulness or gratitude? When we start Yoga practice, we are taught that meditation is the ultimate Yogic experience. When we are young, it is hard to see beyond the benefits of asana, but as the years go by we find an appreciation for the finer things in life. With self-realization we transform gradually toward wisdom and inner happiness. One way to appreciate life is gratitude for the chance we have to live it.
Many of us go through periods of time where we feel like there is nothing to be thankful for. This is a normal part of the human experience and feelings of guilt over it are not helpful in the long run. Instead of feeling bad over a lack of thankfulness, why not practice the art of cultivating a thankful spirit on a daily basis? Thankfulness is intrinsically linked with happiness and joy, making it a very worthwhile thing to pursue.
First, let’s talk about what cultivating thankfulness is not. Gratitude is not something outside of ourselves and it is not dependent on an external factors. Gratitude is not a destination in the distant future; thankfulness is here and now. Often we get into the mindset that if we accomplish this or that we will be truly happy and thankful. The problem with postponing gratitude is that there will always be another goal, destination or event. If we decide that we will be thankful when we reach the destination, we miss out on the joy of the journey itself, along with all the beautiful experiences it is willing to give.
Individuals forget how to be thankful upon reaching adulthood. This state of inherent gratitude is why kids Yoga classes are catching on everywhere. When we are children, everything is something to be thankful for. A sweet candy treat, the joy of blowing bubbles in the afternoon sun, the softness of a kitten’s fur, all of these things are worth being thankful for. Young children dwell in a perpetual state of thankfulness because they are so intensely aware of the present moment. Children are so new to the world that they can’t help but give their full attention to every little thing; this is how they learn and develop the skills necessary to function as adults. When children develop their own ego, the wonder of life begins to fade and a loss of innocence is the result. They turn their attention from the here and now and start putting their focus on other things like social status, future goals or memories of the past. That’s when the inherent thankfulness for all that is disappears.
In essence, thankfulness comes from noticing things to be thankful for. If we are in a constantly distracted state, is it any wonder that we start having a hard time remembering what we’re thankful for? Thankfulness is the direct result of maintaining a constant dialog between yourself and the present moment.
Simply meditating on a daily basis is cultivating thankfulness automatically because it awakens an individual to the present moment which is the source of all good things. Any meditation style is effective, though mindfulness meditation is particularly suited to drawing one’s attention to the little things worthy of gratitude.
Finding and cultivating thankfulness is made simple through meditation but the key to success is consistency. In Yoga, we are taught that meditation must be done every day if an individual wishes to maintain a thankful state on a daily basis. The sessions need not be long; the goal is to simply get in touch with the present moment each and every day. This will profoundly transform your life, making thankfulness the default state of being. No longer think about thankfulness; be the thankfulness and feel the thankfulness. It’s a beautiful thing.
A steady routine of yoga practice will instill feelings of self-confidence and enhance one’s self image. Learning to appreciate ourselves as we are is a yogic life skill, which brings about states of happiness and contentment.
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