"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful." -- Buddha
Namaste. We hear this moniker at the beginning or end of just about any yoga class. We harmoniously sing song the words along with the rest of the class, sometimes adding in an awkward seated bow with prayer-bent hands. But do we know what this gesture actually means? "Namaste" is both a greeting and a salutation. While the interpretive translation is often a hot topic for debate, it is widely known as an expression of gratitude. The aforementioned translation loosely means "I bow to you". It is often a mutual expression (from teacher to student and vice/versa) of appreciation and gratitude. My favorite translation, provided to me by one of my favorite teachers, is "the light, the divine within me respects the light and divine within you."
It is with this action that we most frequently convey and express gratitude in a yogic setting. This article is devoted not to the commercialized American holiday we will most likely be participating in this week, but was meant instead to celebrate the spiritual principle underlying it all. It doesn't need to be the fourth Thursday in November to give thanks. In fact, gratitude is such an important aspect in my life that I try to practice it constantly. In times of depression and desperation, I find myself constructing a gratitude list. This is an easy way for me to quickly visualize all of the advantages that I am afforded in life. Even if I lose a relationship or a beloved family pet, I try to quickly cultivate thankfulness for the many advantages that I do have in life: a roof over my head, food in my belly, a loving circle of friends, clean water to drink, and so on.
How can practicing or expressing gratitude make your life better? Any strong, tall tree that you see in the wilderness has great, thick roots under the earth that are not apparent to the naked eye. Building a solid foundation rooted in positive thinking and gratefulness will give you the same solid foundation. An outsider may be able to sense that you carry a positive attitude and sincere gratitude around with you, as truly strong roots can protrude through the ground near a large tree. Furthermore, the proof is in the proverbial pudding: any large, healthy tree, by nature, has wide, healthy roots. Even if you cannot tangibly see them, you know that they exist.
Gratitude is an action word as well as an attitude. You practice gratitude when you make a list, when you go out of your way to help a stranger in need, or when you donate to a charity. Real gratitude is practiced when it is truly an "act of kindness"; not simply filling in the "gratuity" line when signing a credit card receipt at a restaurant. Gratitude, the true essence of thankfulness, like many attitudes and principles can be cultivated and constantly improved upon. In many ways, gratitude parallels positivity. For example, when you are staying positive, you are looking at the glass and saying it's half full. When you practice gratitude, you are not simply blocking depressing thoughts/feelings, you are allowing yourself to feel whatever it is that you need to feel, then acknowledging and meditating on the culmination of everything positive in your life and the world at large. A key tip here is to keep the big picture in mind. While things may seem bleak momentarily, it is rarely the end of the world or a matter that will literally put your life and livelihood in jeopardy. Life happens, and the ups come with the downs. Otherwise, what fun would life be?
The best thing about practicing thanks? It's totally free! Plus, no weird side effects from chemicals like anti-depressants.
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