Gratitude is a muscle

Probably most of us have experienced losing something and then finding it again, or recovering from an injury and suddenly appreciating something that we habitually take for granted. In my own case, my strongest experience was when I lived for a while in Asia and the apartment block where I lived only had water for a few hours a day and usually not until the evening. I remember vividly one day coming home hot and dusty in the afternoon and turning on a tap (just in case…) and miraculously: there was water! A rush of joy filled me, as all sorts of possibilities opened up: a shower, hand washing, cleaning….

cupped hands image

Some years later I began to notice a habit of always focusing on the negative and that I rarely appreciated the good things in my life. I experienced my lack of gratitude as a prison that I was locked in and longed for this to change. And slowly it has.

Gratitude is a muscle which needs exercising regularly, so if we’re out of practice then it can be helpful to adopt a simple daily ritual. Experimenting in this way can really help, as long as it doesn’t become another thing we should do!

The ritual below is based on one given to us by Vasant Lad: When you wake up in the morning, sit up in bed or stand and hold your two hands in front of you cupped together. As you gaze at your cupped hands, be open to all the blessings life offers and allow yourself to receive them wordlessly. Then bring the open palms of your two hands to your face and stroke them down your upper body until they rest at your sides. This simple contact with ourselves prepares us to greet the new day.

The ability to be grateful may hinge on being able to see the gift in the challenges that life throws at us. Without challenges in life, there would be no growth. Sometimes it may take years before we can see what the gift is. For example, the loss of a loved one may allow us to have experiences we would otherwise not have had. As we begin to notice this more often, it can help us to be open to the fact that every cloud really does have a silver lining.

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