As I begin this practice in conscious living, it’s 5 degrees outside with a sparkling blue sky and strong wind. I find that I am deeply grateful to be indoors, to have heat, and have no reason to go outdoors on this very cold day. What this brings to mind are all the people who don’t have this choice because they work in jobs that serve the rest of us—in the post office, trash collection, the local Starbuck’s and other businesses, fire fighters and other emergency personnel, bus drivers, subway operators, cab drivers. The list goes on and on and, as I think about them, I am filled with gratitude. I also feel concern for them, as it’s a day when it’s not really safe to be outside.
What this brings to mind is the importance of gratitude. It’s a response that not only nurtures one’s own well-being, but it also orients awareness to the contributions of so many participants in our daily lives. Those contributors may be people, they may be other-than-human companions, they may be offerings from nature—food, water, fresh air.
As I write this, I’m eating a pear. What an amazing gift! I often find myself mystified as to how Nature draws on a dynamic creativity that generates all the amazing life forms on this planet. Ecology at times leaves me speechless with its complexity and fundamental collaborative/cooperative underpinnings, so my gratitude, including amazement, often orients itself to the dynamic creativity and intelligence of this planet’s eco-systems.
For this week’s practice in conscious living, notice where your gratitude tends to go and also notice what it’s like to expand or extend it a bit to something you may have not tended to bring into the foreground of your awareness. Also, notice how gratitude is a powerful source of “heart-opening food”, how gratitude automatically engages and nourishes your heart.
Take a moment, as you do this practice, to notice your body. As you express gratitude, notice where your body feels open and relaxed and where you might find tightness or tension. Also check out your chest, your heart-space, and notice if your chest is open and “flowing” or clenched in any way. Wherever you find any tightness, offer an invitation to that part of your body to notice the places in your body where you are more open and notice what happens.
As with all these practices, please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion, as curiosity tends to move toward experience, to be open and receptive. Also, remember to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through without your having to do anything about them. And, in honor of your wholeness, be sure to make room for any mixed feelings that may arise. There’s nothing you have to do with them right now, but it’s a powerful gift to yourself to be able to acknowledge and allow whatever feelings or responses arise. One of the things I invite people to do with mixed feelings is to place a “gentle arm” around them until you can attend to them later.
Here’s an audio version of this practice if you would prefer to listen…