Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Roots of Gratitude Part II

Having a personal practice of giving gratitude is immensely important and can benefit not only our outlook on life but can also have physical and emotional benefits that in turn improve our relationships with people and things.  Being grateful as a family can also uplift each member and bring our relationships closer together.  There is no doubt that this practice is magical and beautiful.

Today, the day in which we celebrate the American Thanksgiving Holiday, I am conflicted with deep and intense emotions.  Many of us are given time off of work and school to spend with our loved ones. I have spent most Thanksgivings with my family, laughing, playing, eating and enjoying each other's presence. Yet, as I've learned through my formal and informal education the truth behind the sugar coated Pilgrims and Indians story that was spoon fed to me as a child, I find it harder and harder to just smile and wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving. 

I believe that we must look deeply at our own personal pain and suffering so that we may release and heal in our own lives.  I also believe the same is needed for looking deeply at the pain and suffering that exists in the history of this holiday. We must acknowledge that this day, even though for many of us, in this day and age it embodies family togetherness, deep gratitude, warm connections, sharing, love and wonderful food, it is based on a dark, greed filled tragedy and massacre of the native people who were living here when the colonizers arrived.  If we do not embrace the true nature of this holiday, we cannot embrace ourselves wholly.  It is painful to admit that some of our own ancestors participated in the atrocities that history books wish to erase from our memories. It is difficult work to acknowledge that entire cultures and people were destroyed for the benefit of our own ancestors. Yet through bringing this truth to light and embracing it, we can take responsibility and there can be forgiveness, healing and peace for all.  Of course there exist current systems and social practices that perpetuate the energy embodied by the colonizers and that also must be acknowledged and addressed, but on an energetic level for the healing of those murdered and displaced, we can offer the unadulterated truth.

Related articles:

Be Thankful. Be Truthful. Be Open. Be Humble.

The photo for this post is from Free Digital Photos by Photokanok.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Roots of Gratitude Part I

The ability to draw our attention to that in our lives for which we are grateful is a skill that truly must be sharpened through practice. We must take the time to reflect and bring the energy of gratitude towards the people, places, things, events and achievements in our lives that we appreciate most dearly.  It is possible, with the myriad of daily stresses, logistics, emotions and anxieties in our lives, that we can begin to focus on the negative or feel that we are lacking. But with practice and reminders, our focus on gratitude for what we do have can bring a sense of joy and lightness into our lives. With a heart filled with gratitude, coming face to face with all of life's difficulties can become that much easier.

Often with a Gratitude Practice, we focus outside of ourselves. We may practice being grateful for family, friends, pets, material objects, etc. Or we may be grateful for experiences or major life events. This is a fundamental part of practicing gratitude and an important place to begin. Today, through a simple guided meditation, I challenged my students in yoga class to bring their practice of gratitude towards their own bodies, minds and souls. It can be very easy to neglect ourselves when offering energy of deep appreciation. We must begin to be gentler with, kinder to and more grateful for ourselves so that that way of being can extend out towards those around us.  With practice, being grateful can become our instinct and the foundation from where we function. When I find myself being critical towards my loved ones, it is precisely the same critical voice that plays ten times louder and a hundred times more frequently in my own mind towards my own self.

I offer to you a gentle practice for deepening the energy of gratitude within your own heart.  This was inspired by other sources and teachers that have guided me.

Begin either lying or sitting comfortably in a quiet space. As you breathe in and out, become aware of the breath entering and leaving your nose. Now bring your attention to your heart and imagine that your breath is now entering and leaving through your heart, energizing and opening your heart center.

With each in-breath, first think of one person, then one place, one thing and then one event for which you are grateful.  With each exhalation, say thank you.  Now, with each inhalation, think of one part of your body that you appreciate. On the exhale, say thank you. Repeat 5-10 times with different parts of your body. When you complete your body gratitude, repeat with thinking of aspects of your mind and then your spirit that you appreciate most.

We are perfect as we are and we have the source of greatness within us. Our potential is infinite.

Be Kind. Be Grateful. Be Great. In Gratitude.

The photo in this post is from Free Digital Photos by James Barker.
The meditation in this post was inspired by Amy Ippoliti's video on YogaGlo (you must be a subscriber of this site to see the actual video and it is linked here primarily for credit)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Coming Home

Where is home? What is home? How does it feel? Is there a scent connected with it? What does coming home mean? So much of our time and energy is focused outward on other people, what we "must" do, where we must go. Even if we are sitting in one place, our thoughts are focused out into the future or they can be stuck, dwelling in the past.  We may feel like we don't belong or perhaps we feel lost.

Coming home is a way to ground ourselves and become centered on our bodies, our thought patterns and our processes of life. We can come home by reconnecting to our bodies through our breath, through our mindfulness of movement, through mindful walking, dance, yoga or meditation. Our bodies are our temples, our first physical home for our spirit, the one we chose when we came in to this Earth. 

Our breath is the life force for our bodies, for our energy, for our mind and for our spirit. Our breath can bring us home whenever we feel shaken, pulled or stressed.  Focusing on our breath, we can can feel more connected and grounded.  When our home and foundation is solid and secure, we are rooted deeply within ourselves. When we accept exactly where we are in the here and the now, we relieve ourselves of so much pressure to be or do something different.  We can see clearly when we look deeply at this home. And then, when our roots deepen we are able to grow up and branch out into newness and out of our comfort. We are perfect just as we are now, yet we are also ever changing and growing as part of the movement of energy and life.  We must embrace ourselves and the path we are walking.

Coming home. This time of year, when the holidays near, we may begin to think of coming home. We may actually go to our childhood homes or travel with or go to visit our original nuclear family. Thinking of our childhood and original family can be comforting for some of us but for others, it can create stress and throw us off balance. The dynamics of our relationships can be multifaceted and complex.  We may start to feel out of balance or there may be a strong sense of anxiety or mixed feelings.  This is when we can practice coming home to ourselves as a source of strength and support. By doing so, we can then be present with the people in our lives.  

Be clear. Be gentle. Be calm. Be home.

The image for this post is from Dominic Harness's profile on Free Digital Photos