Originally published November 27, 2009
[Note: the following post is based on an email I sent to those who have signed up for my free online meditation lessons. If you would like to sign up for these lessons, go to http://www.tantricchristianity.com/lesson_signup.html and enter you name and email address. You’ll receive a confirmation email almost immediately after this has been submitted. Be sure to click that confirming link!]
We celebrated Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S.A. today. It’s a time to reflect on our blessings and express in some way our gratitude for them. Many of us have the day off of work, and we go out of our way to spend time with family and friends, gorging on good food.
My family and I were in on that, and I hope that whatever the specifics of your day, you were able to spend some time considering the elements of your own life for which you are grateful. Doubtless, you’ve heard that same sentiment more than once today.
It’s good to be reminded, today of all days, to review all of the things that we can point to which make our lives something we are happy about. But rather than simply be one more voice reminding you to ‘give thanks’, I thought I might offer you a simple generative meditation exercise which will help you experience that gratitude more profoundly.
The following steps are all that is involved:
· Find a quiet time and place where you will be undisturbed for however long you wish to meditate.
· Spend a few moments simply breathing. Experience your entire torso as air comes into your body through your nose, and leaves again. No tension is required, or attempt at controlling your breath. Just breath and experience the action.
· Spend a few more moments feeling your heart beat in your chest.
· Identify something (anything in your life will do) for which you are grateful. Big or small, something that saved your life, or something of little ‘real’ import – makes no difference, so long as it is something which prompts gratitude in your spirit.
· Now, seeing an image of that thing, or saying its name silently to yourself, imagine breathing that feeling of gratitude into the spot in your chest where your heart is beating.
· Breath that gratitude back into the world on the out breath. Don’t hold your breath, draw it out, or otherwise try to manipulate the natural rhythm of breathing; just follow it with this feeling of gratitude.
· Continue this process, refreshing the image of the thing you are grateful for, or repeating its name to yourself, to keep the feeling of gratitude fresh.
Feel free to allow other ‘items of gratitude’ to suggest themselves to you – the point of this isn’t so much to focus on what makes you feel grateful, but the gratitude itself. Allow as many different things which prompt that feeling as you like.
In his book the Heartmath Solution, Doc Childre uses human physiology to build a strong case for the benefits of a similar exercise. He talks about the heart’s brain, and gives a lot of the usual health improvement citations for why we might want to pursue this.
That is more than fine, but I would also point out that developing a vibrant sense of gratitude for all the good things in our lives helps our spiritual growth, too. When we feel like we have a lot going for us, it’s easy – almost automatic – to exhibit many of the other values our religious traditions prescribe. Generosity, loving kindness, justice: all of these are easier to express naturally when we are operating from a sense of plenty, rather a sense of being threatened by lack or scarcity.
So this Thanksgiving Day, and on lots of other days too, spend a few minutes breathing gratitude. It will be one more thing you can be glad for in your life.