A couple weeks ago I added a new gratitude practice to my life. This newest one is with Dr. Lauren Tober and involves photography. Each day I watched a video (sent to my inbox). Lauren describes different aspects to the practice of capturing gratitude. (You can see the images I did on Instagram they start with an image of a “messy” desktop.) Upon completion of the fifth/final day I had an a-ha moment, many moments I’ve captured through a viewfinder, have been prompted by a connection to feeling grateful. These visual records acknowledge a moment felt with gratitude.
Gratitude practices throughout my life tend to deepen my awareness of what is actually happening in life on a day-to-day basis. It also keeps me keenly attuned to being alive on this planet right now, being aware of blessings received and privileges attained. The implementation of a gratitude practice has become as essential to my mental well being as my meditation practice is. Without this daily acknowledgement I feel off, unbalanced in the heart arena, the mind feels a bit unfocused, and the spirit less grounded.
Just over thirty years ago, shortly after I finished all the medical treatments to defeat the cancer over taking my body, I began my first gratitude practice. A friend gave me a heart shaped rock on which he had painted a yin/yang symbol. The symbol wrapped around the rock so the white part was on one side and the black on the other. Without any great intention I kissed the lighter side the first night. I whispered to the beautiful little piece of art my gratefulness for having lived another day of life. Setting down the rock onto the nightstand, I flipped it to the darker side to rest for the night. Upon awakening I held it in my hand. A gratefulness of awakening to another day hummed through my being, so I kissed it again, offering words of thankfulness for awakening to a new day, as I flipped it to the lighter side. Without any great plan this ritual stuck and is now a daily reminder of my being alive.
I am guessing the rock-kissing ritual is uncaused happiness. “A joy that is consistent, despite the ups and downs of life.” (Dr. Lauren Tober) Though I may know a day is likely to bring me an unpleasant challenge I am still grateful to be alive. Versus the counterpart to this Buddhist philosophy, caused happiness. This second type of happiness refers to the attainment of something or having a particular interaction causing a moment of happiness.
Last week a dear friend left this reality and another friend the week before. Each passing prompted a deep reflection on the capacity to be happy and gratitude’s connection to it. The first passing was a suicide, a young woman. Her struggles, I imagine, led her to ultimately be unable to feel a consistent gratitude for life. The other friend battling a disease for many, many months, taking its’ toll bit-by-bit. Somehow she emanated gratitude and happiness with her impeding death. I know she spoke often of the blessings she felt in her life. It makes me wonder what the deep impact of a gratitude practice can create? Did my other friend, who took her life, have such a practice? If not, could it have assisted her in some way to feel more connected to life? How deeply does the capacity to feel and then express gratitude influence our capacity to be happy with life? Dr. Tober’s research, up to this point, suggests there can be a strong correlation.
What I am sure of, is grounding in gratitude each day assists me in being present to and loving life.