Buddhist monks begin each day with a chant of gratitude for the blessings of their life. Native American elders begin each ceremony with grateful prayers to mother earth and father sky, to the four directions, to the animal, plant, and mineral brothers and sisters who share our earth and support our life. In Tibet, the monks and nuns even offer prayers of gratitude for the suffering they have been given: “Grant that I might have enough suffering to awaken in the deepest possible compassion and wisdom.”
Gratitude is arguably the most high-test, healing emotion we humans can come up with, not to mention the one most associated with quality of life, mental health, and wellness. This little poem by e.e. cummings is just another gentle reminder of where to place our attention – and our expectations.
I thank You, God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
Gratitude Meditation Techniques
The purpose of the meditation is to cultivate an open and gentle feeling of thankfulness for all that is good in your life. For the gift of life itself. Although it can be, much of the anger and frustration we experience isn’t directed on a specific object. In either case, cultivating gratitude can replace those painful feelings with positive ones.
Go at your own pace and include anything else that comes to mind:
- Settle yourself in a relaxed posture. Take a few deep, calming breaths to relax. Let your awareness move to your immediate environment: all the things you can smell, taste, touch, see, hear. Say to yourself: “For these, I am grateful.”
- Next, bring to mind those people in your life to whom you are close: your friends, family, partner…. Say to yourself, “For them, I am grateful.”
- Next, turn your attention onto yourself: you are a unique individual, blessed with imagination, the ability to communicate, to learn from the past and plan for the future, to overcome any pain you may be experiencing. Say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”
- Finally, rest into the realization that life is a precious gift. That you have been born into a period of immense prosperity, that you have the gift of health, culture, and access to spiritual teachings. Say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”
Gratitude Meditation Practice
Let yourself sit quietly and at ease. Allow your body to be relaxed and open, your breath natural, your heart easy. Begin the practice of gratitude by feeling how year after year you have cared for your own life. Now let yourself begin to acknowledge all that has supported you in this care:
With gratitude, I remember the people, animals, plants, insects, creatures of the sky and sea, air and water, fire and earth, all whose joyful exertion blesses my life every day.
With gratitude, I remember the care and labor of a thousand generations of elders and ancestors who came before me.
I offer my gratitude for the safety and well-being I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the blessing of this earth I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the measure of health I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the family and friends I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the community I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the teachings and lessons I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the life I have been given.
May you be joyful.
May your happiness increase.
May you not be separated from great happiness.
May your good fortune and the causes for your joy and happiness increase.
Body Gratitude Meditation
Some days I can find it a bit challenging to feel thankful towards my body. Can you relate?
I find that when I can drop into my breath and get quiet for a few minutes, though, then gratitude can come through in a little more easeful way.
We have an odd relationship with our bodies. On the one hand, we identify with them strongly. We tend to despair when they become sick, suffer agonies over how others perceive our appearance, take it personally when they show signs of aging, and sometimes spend large amounts of time and money trying to beautify them in order to look our best. On the other hand, we neglect them, fill them full of unhealthy foods, and use them in ways that cause them long-term damage. Often, in fact, people resent their bodies and get angry with them when they experience pain or illness.
Tighten and tenderize your relationship with your body by suspending criticism and judgment for just a few minutes (at least!), shifting your focus to gratitude.
So my practice is simple. It’s a body scan practice where we become aware of the body, part by part, and notice the sensations arising there. The addition is that we say “Thank you” to each part of the body as we become aware of it. By saying “Thank you” we develop gratitude for that part of the body.
Mindfulness Meditation Gratitude
I’m curious what would happen if you committed for just one week to a daily mindfulness meditation gratitude practice where each day you mindfully and actively thought of five to ten things you’re grateful for.
When you sit down to consider what you’re actually grateful for, you take a moment to picture each one in your mind and ask yourself, why are you grateful for this? Can you feel the experience of that gratitude in your body?
If you have a few minutes right now before moving onto the next thing, try this out with even just one thing you’re grateful for. Bring a curious mind to it and see what you notice. You may just begin to uncover a little happiness right now.