691st Week: Return to Gratitude

As I pondered what this week’s practice in conscious living might be, I came across an article I saved a while back about research that’s been done on gratitude. This research demonstrates the powerful health-giving effects of what David Steindl-Rast calls gratefulness. Then I ran across another note I saved about a Buddhist practice that focuses on “finding the hidden people”…

It invites us to “…develop an awareness of all those individuals hidden behind the surface of our daily lives, on whom we may depend in some way. A Buddhist-inspired approach to this is to spend a whole day becoming mindful of every person connected to your routine actions.” This idea was drawn from an article found at this link: http://www.dailygood.org/more.php?n=6399

The practice of “finding the hidden people” reminded me of Thich Nhat Hanh’s practice of taking time to imagine and acknowledge as many elements as possible of, say, taking a bite of melon. So, you might begin with imagining the farmer who plants the melon seed, nurtures the plant that will eventually produce the melon, acknowledge the soil and all the life forms that make the soil alive and able to support the growing melon plant, sunlight, rain, etc. Then, acknowledge the people who pick the melon, the vehicle that transports it, the driver of that vehicle, the fossil fuel that powers it, the people who made the fossil fuel available, the grocery store or farm stand employees, and more. This can become as extensive a practice of acknowledgment and gratitude as you want it to be.

I often think about the “hidden people” when I turn on a light or get water from the faucet. People I will never know make it possible for me to have these basic necessities and I am deeply grateful to them for their contributions to the quality of my life. When I make a salad or a morning smoothie, I imagine all the people and nature elements that have gone into the food that I prepare. I find that when I do this, my state of mind and being are inevitably nourished and enhanced, as well. Here’s the link to the gratitude research that shows this: http://gratefulness.org/resource/gratitude-changes-brain/

For this week’s practice, I invite you to spend time noticing, acknowledging and internally or actually thanking the hidden people in your life. Most of them you will never know, and yet you benefit from their efforts and attention. As you consider the hidden people in your life, notice what happens as you express gratitude towards them, as you acknowledge the contributions they offer to your life. Notice the sensations that arise in your body as you engage gratitude, as well as the quality of your self-talk and feeling state. Gratitude is not only a gift to others; it is also a gift to yourself.

As with all these practices, there’s no “right” way to do this one. Rather, it’s yet another opportunity to notice how what you choose to do with your awareness and where you choose to focus your attention have a powerful impact on the quality of your internal experience.

Remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion. It allows you to automatically be more open to new discoveries and awarenesses. And, it’s helpful to remember to pat on the head any judgments that may come to mind as you work with gratitude, allowing those judgments to simply arise, move through, and move on.

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