About the Author Nawang Khechog was a monk for eleven years, including four years as a hermit meditator in the Himalayan foothills personally sponsored by His Holiness the Dalai Lama; he has studied Buddhist philosophy and meditation with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as well as many other Tibetan masters, and now fills a truly unique spot in Buddhist culture as a teacher, performer, practitioner, and Tibetan freedom fighter, as well as being a Grammy-nominated musician whose latest solo CD, Tibetan Meditation Music , hit number nine on the Billboard charts, he has sold several million of his CDs world-wide.
Having spent more than thirty years in India as a Tibetan refugee, Nawang now seeks strength and tranquility in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and continues his performances and sharing the value of universal kindness and compassion in workshops across the country. He frequently describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk. Born in northeastern Tibet in , he was as a toddler recognized as the incarnation of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama and brought to Tibet's capital, Lhasa.
In , Mao Zedong's Communist forces made their first incursions into eastern Tibet, shortly after which the young Dalai Lama assumed the political leadership of his country. He passed his scholastic examinations with honors at the Great Prayer Festival in Lhasa in , the same year Chinese forces occupied the city, forcing His Holiness to escape to India. There he set up the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, working to secure the welfare of the more than , Tibetan exiles and prevent the destruction of Tibetan culture. In his capacity as a spiritual and political leader, he has traveled to more than sixty-two countries on six continents and met with presidents, popes, and leading scientists to foster dialogue and create a better world.
In recognition of his tireless work for the nonviolent liberation of Tibet, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in In , he relinquished political authority in his exile government and turned it over to democratically elected representatives. His Holiness frequently states that his life is guided by three major commitments: the promotion of basic human values or secular ethics in the interest of human happiness, the fostering of interreligious harmony, and securing the welfare of the Tibetan people, focusing on the survival of their identity, culture, and religion.
As a superior scholar trained in the classical texts of the Nalanda tradition of Indian Buddhism, he is able to distill the central tenets of Buddhist philosophy in clear and inspiring language, his gift for pedagogy imbued with his infectious joy. Connecting scientists with Buddhist scholars, he helps unite contemplative and modern modes of investigation, bringing ancient tools and insights to bear on the acute problems facing the contemporary world.
His efforts to foster dialogue among leaders of the world's faiths envision a future where people of different beliefs can share the planet in harmony. Wisdom Publications is proud to be the premier publisher of the Dalai Lama's more serious and in-depth works. Show More. Average Review. Write a Review.
A Guide to Cultivating Compassion in Your Life, With 7 Practices
Related Searches. For Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, a provocative yet compassionate guide using a series of insightful For Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, a provocative yet compassionate guide using a series of insightful lessons, meditations, and exercises designed to incite a fresh take on our quest for happiness and the good life. Start a Revolution, Incite Happiness! Delivered with View Product. Like boardwalk tourists poking their faces through two-dimensional cutouts of the muscle man and Every day, millions of people turn to books, online dating sites, and marriage counselors with Every day, millions of people turn to books, online dating sites, and marriage counselors with one goal in mind: to find—and keep—the romantic partner of their dreams.
In Elemental Love Styles, counselor, astrologer, and interfaith minister Dr. One example is the power of letting go of troublesome thoughts. What we are really letting go of the illusion of control in a world of change. This attempt to control things keeps us bound in fear. Letting go of control is not easy since that habit is so strong.
The irony is that our over-efforting is what blocks the natural unfolding of things. The secret of letting go is seeing, through direct experience, the pain that comes with attachment to things being a certain way. When you find yourself struggling, if you look deeply, chances are you may discover attachment somewhere—either wanting things to stay the same or wanting them to change.
As unpleasant as this realization may be, this is not a bad thing. As you bring awareness to this predicament, you will see directly for yourself that attachment leads to suffering and you become more motivated to let go. There are several dimensions of letting go that lead to a joyful heart.
The following are suggested areas of exploration to practice with. If one area in particular speaks to you, work with it in a more focused conscious way. If you take on a particular practice, notice how it affects your general level of well-being.
The Path to Happiness: Compassion
Letting Go as Simplifying The essence of letting go is bringing greater simplicity into our lives. One aspect of simplifying can involve letting go of material things. How much do we really need? We crave simplicity. In the book, Ven. In contrast to maximum consumption leading to more satisfaction, we have moderate, or wise consumption leading to well-being.
This practice of finding the point of optimal well-being requires mindful attention. But it saves you from going overboard turning pleasure into suffering. Will that extra portion of dessert really bring you more happiness or more indigestion? The Rippling Effect of Simplifying There are profound ramifications for simplifying our lives that go beyond the personal. Letting go of our consumer mentality to acquire more can have a tremendous effect on not only our own happiness but on the survival of the planet.
Reflection: 1 Settle the attention for a few moments and then look at your own genuine care and attention. Remember just how much you care about this planet—about nature, all the people, plants and animals who live on this planet as well as future generations 2 As you get in touch with that caring consider how, through letting go of some habit of consumption or in taking some positive action, you could have a lighter footprint. If you get clear on some action, see what how it affects you to consciously take it on as a practice that supports deepening joy.
Be present for those moments. Greater Balance through Simplifying Another area of letting go that can lead to more happiness is bringing more balance to an overcrowded, busy life. We create suffering by taking on more than we can possibly handle. Even if the choices are pleasant ones doing too much throws our life out of balance. If it is overcrowded, you are doing more than is right for you to do, more than is your job to do in the total scheme of things. You might reflect on these questions: 1. What is making my life complicated or out of balance these days?
What would I need to simplify or let go of to bring my life more into balance? To practice with this theme, you might try the following experiment. Pick an area to take on as a practice of simplifying. This can be as simple as practicing not looking at email more than you need to. If you want to add something to your schedule, make sure to delete something else.
Every time you make a choice for simplifying by letting go of stuff or overcrowding your life feel the joy of practicing a way that better serves you. Letting Go of Our Stories One of the most profound letting go practices is letting go of the stories and beliefs we tell ourselves about who we are and how it all is. These kinds of limiting stories are a major source of our suffering. They may involve beliefs about our past, our potential, what others think of us, our expectations or any interpretation that causes us confusion or fear.
The brain creates assumptions based on past information and conclusions about life. We push the present through a filter of the past in order to predict the future. However, we can cultivate what Dan Siegel calls Mindsight, the ability of the mind to see itself in action, not be at the mercy of its stories. This gives us more choices.
Mindfulness meditation practice is one of the most powerful ways to cultivate this. These patterns and beliefs can easily be triggered giving rise to stories create a self-fulfilling reality. By understanding the conditioning that keeps you locked in unskillful thoughts and habits, you can begin to bring compassion to your predicament and let go of self-judgment and blaming others. The Mindful Self-Compassion exercise described above is a good way to hold those habitual thoughts.
Another way to not be run by your thoughts is by clearly recognizing the story you habitually get caught in. Labeling the story calms down the mind by activating a different part of the brain than the one that is triggered. There is a power in reframing your story. You might ask yourself. Thoughts are as real as we believe them to be or as empty as we see them to be. You may find that using this reflection is an effective way to free the mind of the tyranny of negative thinking.
I encourage you to take some time to reflect and perhaps write your own responses to these questions. Consider sharing these reflections with a course buddy or friend: 1. What story do you believe that keeps you from experiencing well-being and joy? What would it be like if you saw it as just a story and could let it go? What would you need to understand or remember in order to let it go in the future?
What story could you substitute that would be more supportive of your well-being? Letting Go of Expectations and Figuring Out Letting go of expectations and plans allows us to be with what really is and respond with openness and curiosity. Even if you have a strong intention and give whole-hearted effort, in the end you need to let go of the outcome when life takes an unexpected turn, which it often does.
Letting go of trying to figure out how things will turn out creates a lot of space in the mind, too. Life will keep unfolding, revealing in its own time what we need to know. We just have to be open enough to hear the messages. Anxiously trying to find the right answer rarely allows space enough for your wisdom to emerge. By letting go of worrying about what is beyond your control, you can quiet down enough to listen inside to the wisest response to your current situation.
Generosity, the Full Flowering of Letting Go Practice The kind of letting go that most directly results in well-being is generosity, the active expression of letting go which also acknowledges the inter-connectedness that we all share. The stuff we share is the currency of our caring and love. How has that exchange impacted your relationship? Or think of a gift in your house that someone gave you.
Does the object help you feel connected to that person? What we share connects us with others. Generosity brings us joy and it is something that can be consciously practiced. We experience genuine delight when we give with no ulterior motive. We like to share just because it feels good. Notice how good generosity feels. That way you reinforce the wholesomeness of your generosity and awaken more joy.
If you do, your generosity will be coming from a feeling of depletion instead of abundance. That is one reason why nourishing yourself is so important. Not only is your own well-being increased but others benefit from your self-care as well. Receiving as a Part of Generosity Practice Another aspect of generosity comes with understanding the three elements that are said to affect the power of an exchange of a gift: the purity in the heart of the giver, the purity of the gift and the purity in the heart of the receiver.
Being the recipient is, for many people, more difficult than being the giver. Practicing Generosity Let generosity be a source of joy for you. Practice it in any way that feels right. Start wherever you are. Sometimes the greatest gift we can offer is being truly present for someone. You can also cultivate generosity as an extension of your gratitude practice.
Each day find someone in your life to whom you can express genuine appreciation. No need to keep it to yourself. Let them benefit from hearing about something you value in them. Roger Walsh, in his book Essential Spirituality, offers some ideas for practicing generosity. He suggests doing your work in a spirit of generosity and service. Have fun experiencing the joy connected with generosity. Be present for how it feels any time you act on the impulse as it arises. Of course, musical taste varies from person to person, so you may not agree. Supportive Practices As you focus on practices related to Letting Go, you might pick one practice below and work with it.
Or do them in any sequence or way that works for you. Rather than feeling burdened, use these suggestions as support for your greater well-being. You might use this period to work on simplifying your life in some way. Be gentle and patient with yourself since old habits die hard. Try working with it in one area and feel good about any changes you see. Pay attention to how it feels in your body and mind.
Let it register in your awareness. Notice how it feels to let go of the story. Work with letting go of expectations , worrying about the future or various ways you try to control what is beyond your control. If appropriate, act on it. Notice how it affects the connection you feel with the other person. Continue the most supportive practices that work for you: meditating or taking some quiet time, singing or other ways to express yourself creatively, healthy body movement exercise, yoga, walking etc. I want to encourage you not to try hard to be joyful.
May you be happy, truly happy. May you and all beings benefit. Information about the April 16th Zoom video conference call: Mark your calendar s for Tuesday, April 16 starting at am U. Pacific Time. To join the Zoom Meeting use this link:. Let your body and mind relax.
Breathing gently into the area of your heart, let yourself feel all the barriers you have erected and the emotions that you have carried because you have not forgiven — not forgiven yourself, not forgiven others. Let yourself feel the pain of keeping your heart closed. Then, breathing softly, begin asking and extending forgiveness, reciting the following words, letting the images and feelings that come up grow deeper as you repeat them.
Let yourself remember and visualize the ways you have hurt others. See and feel the pain you have caused out of your own fear and confusion. Feel your own sorrow and regret. Sense that finally you can release this burden and ask for forgiveness. Picture each memory that still burdens your heart. And then to each person in your mind repeat:. I ask for your forgiveness, I ask for your forgiveness. I have betrayed or abandoned myself many times through thought, word, or deed, knowingly or unknowingly.
Feel your own precious body and life. Picture them, remember them. Feel the sorrow you have carried from this and sense that you can release these burdens. Extend forgiveness for each of them, one by one. I forgive myself, I forgive myself. Let yourself picture and remember these many ways. Feel the sorrow you have carried from this past and sense that you can release this burden of pain by extending forgiveness when your heart is ready. Now say to yourself:. I now remember the many ways others have hurt or harmed me, wounded me, out of fear, pain, confusion and anger.
I have carried this pain in my heart too long. To the extent that I am ready, I offer them forgiveness. To those who have caused me harm, I offer my forgiveness, I forgive you. Let yourself gently repeat these three directions for forgiveness until you feel a release in your heart.
For some great pains you may not feel a release but only the burden and the anguish or anger you have held. Touch this softly. Be forgiving of yourself for not being ready to let go and move on. Forgiveness cannot be forced; it cannot be artificial. Simply continue the practice and let the words and images work gradually in their own way. In time you can make the forgiveness meditation a regular part of your life, letting go of the past and opening your heart to each new moment with a wise loving kindness.
Construct a way that you can carry out the 5 precepts each day this week. These are commitment statements regarding our aspirations and intentions to honor the precepts. Make it simple and do-able. It is in stillness and silence that we are not causing harm, contributing to the good and doing so for not only ourselves, but all beings.
Commit to finding minutes at the beginning, middle and end of each day for review and reflection of the precepts. Check in with your joy buddy to discuss the benefits, blessings and challenges of honoring yourself and your highest aspirations through the precepts. Also, notice the distress and dukkha that you experience when you devalue yourself and buy into the ever-present storyline that you are somehow not capable or worthy of these blessings.
Can you reach out to others to assist and remind you of your goodness, value and benefit? I am determined not to kill, not to allow others to kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thoughts, and in my way of life. I vow to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that belongs to others. I will respect the property of others, and prevent others from profiting from taking the possessions of others.
I am determined not to engage in relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of others, and myself, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children and to prevent couples and families from being broken by heedless misconduct. Knowing that words are made manifest by the mind, I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire goodness and peace. I am determined not to share information that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure.
I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can contribute to distress. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small. I vow to ingest items that preserve peace, well being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective consciousness of my family and society. I am aware that to ingest these toxins is to harm myself, my ancestors and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a healthful diet that benefits the Earth and myself.
To be unskillful means to intentionally think or act in ways that harm you or others. Honor all life. Share your time and resources. Take care with sexual energy, respecting boundaries. Speak kindly. Develop a clear mind and healthy body. That begins with forgiveness. Integrity is not just about following guidelines for morality. On a deeper level, it's about being true to yourself. Be watchful of how you speak to yourself.
Remembering the Gladness of the Wholesome , Pg. Take these positive feelings in and let them motivate you to continue to choose wholesome and skillful actions. Forgiving Yourself, Pg. Consider what conditions, inner and outer, might have motivated your words or actions.
Loving Kindness and Compassion PART II
Was fear a part of what motivated your choices? Fear of what? How did the fear activate your thoughts, words and deeds? Now imagine yourself as a wise and kind being who understands and forgives you. Notice if there is any change in your body or mind as you take in that forgiveness. Is there any way you might act differently if a similar situation presents itself in the future? Cultivating Habits for Happiness , Pg. Brainstorm ways you might act in alignment with this guideline. Write them down and place the paper in a prominent location where you can readily see it every day.
A North Star , Pg. May I be true to myself. May I honor my life. May I share my time and resources skillfully. May I speak kindly and mindfully. May I develop a clear mind and healthy body. May I forgive myself for the mistakes I have made. In the shared quiet, an invitation arises like a white dove lifting from a limb and taking flight. Come and live in truth. Take your place in the flow of grace.
Draw aside the veil you thought would always separate your heart from love. All you ever longed for is before you in this moment if you dare draw in a breath and whisper "Yes. And the self-same well from which your Iaughter rises was often times filled with your tears. And how else can it be? Suffering and stress are part of the fabric of life. While some of us have easier lives than others, if each of us lives a normal life span, not one of us can escape old age, sickness and death. Mindfulness can ease what we're going through in hard times and it releases us from mental states that cause suffering.
As we stop trying to protect ourselves from our painful experiences and mindfully open to them, all those positive qualities within us— understanding, compassion, kindness -can also come to Iife. Kathleen Casey, on pg. We build elaborate scenarios of failure and chaos and believe them to be true. This may be very creative, but it's not conducive to happiness.
Worry is a very real kind of mental suffering. May I be open to the suffering that comes into my life, rather than resisting it, so that the pain doesn't get stuck in me. Continue to look for moments of gratitude and ingratitude , seeing if we can take a few breaths moving closer to and developing a friendliness with each. Each experience is useful in the recognition, acceptance and inquiry.
Where is gratitude or the lack of gratitude alive in this present moment? What is feeding this experience? We will be exchanging this letter with our buddies in the next class. We will begin to explore challenging, difficult and reactive moments that inhibit and deprive us of joy next week in Class 6. Ingratitude is, unfortunately, liable to crop up in various ways in the context of the life of a practicing Buddhist. Beyond a certain point of spiritual progress, it is simply impossible to feel ungrateful.
One who knows the truth of impermanence and the interconnectedness of all things, will be overflowing with gratitude to parents, teachers, and spiritual friends. If we do not know that something has been gifted to or benefited us, we cannot generate gratefulness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums. Here the clam deep in the speckled sand. Are my boots old? Is my coat torn? Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? The thrush greeting the morning; the little bluebirds in their hot box; the salty talk of the wren, then the deep cup of the hour of silence. The oaks, letting down their dark and hairy fruit; the carrot, rising in its elongated waist; the onion, sheet after sheet, curved inward to the pale green wand; at the end of summer the brassy dust, the almost liquid beauty of the flowers; then the ferns, scrawned black by the frost.
The swallows making their dip and turn over the water. What would you like to see again? My dog: her energy and exuberance, her willingness, her language beyond all nimbleness of tongue, her recklessness, her loyalty, her sweetness, her strong legs, her curled black lip, her snap. What did you think was happening? As many times as I forget, catch myself charging forward without even knowing where I am going, that many times I can make the choice to stop, to breathe, to be and walk slowly into the mystery, GRATEFUL!
Again I resume the long lesson: how small a thing can be pleasing, how little in this hard world it takes to satisfy the mind and bring it to its rest. With the ongoing havoc the wood this morning is almost unnaturally still. Through stalled air, unshadowed light, a few leaves fall of their own weight. The sky is gray. It begins in mist almost at the ground and rises forever. The trees rise in silence almost natural, but not quite, almost eternal, but not quite. What more did I think I wanted?
Here is what has always been. Here is what will always be. Even in me, the Maker of all this returns in rest, even to the slightest of His works, a yellow leaf slowly falling, and is pleased. Let yourself sit in a relaxed and supported posture. Allow the body to relax, your breath flowing naturally, your heart open. Begin the practice of gratitude by feeling the truth of how your life has been carried forth, cared for by infinite beings, causes and conditions, all of which have benefitted you….
Now let yourself begin to recollect, remember and acknowledge all that has contributed to your welfare and benefit throughout all time:. With gratitude, I thank the uncountable people, animals, plants, insects, creatures of the sky and sea, air and water, fire and earth; all whose joyful interconnection blesses my life every day. With gratitude, I remember the care, labor and intentioned effort of the thousand generations of benefactors, elders and ancestors who came before me. I offer gratitude for my safety and well-being.
I offer gratitude for the blessing of this earth, our mother. I offer gratitude for the health I have been gifted. I offer gratitude for the family and friends I have been privileged to love and be loved by. I offer gratitude for the belonging and community I have been gifted. I offer gratitude for the opportunities to learn, grow, heal and change from teachings and lessons I have been gifted. I offer gratitude for this precious human life accorded to few. I offer gratitude to the myriad things that are not yet seen, heard, known or understood that have contributed to my wellbeing, happiness, ease and freedom.
Just as we are grateful for our blessings, so we can be grateful for the blessings of others.
Bring to mind someone you care about, someone it is easy to rejoice for. Offer them the blessings that you have received in this lifetime, that they too may be happy and free. May your happiness increase. May you not be separated from great happiness. May your good fortune and the causes for your joy and happiness increase. Sense the shared joy and caring in each phrase. When you feel some degree of natural gratitude for the happiness of this loved one, extend this practice to another person you care about.
You can then continue to open the heart to include neutral people, difficult people, and even those with whom we have pain and wounds until you extend shared joy to all beings everywhere, young and old, near and far. Practice dwelling in joy until the effort of practice drops away and the intentions of joy merge into the natural joy of your own wise, awakened heart.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity It has enough lush forests, flowered fields, and sandy beaches. It has plenty of stars and the promise of a new sunrise and sunset every day. What the world needs more of is people to appreciate and enjoy it. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude. Don't sweat tomorrow--you haven't even met. Instead, open your eyes and your heart to a truly precious gift--today.
I've never seen this one before. Set an Intention for Gratitude this week. Soaking in the Good: Placing your attention on a moment, take seconds to drink in, savor, immerse yourself in the bloom of the present moment. Use your 5 senses to breathe in the moment and the experience as best you can. What do you notice about the change in perception, feeling, knowing as it relates to gratitude? Continue to inquire into moments of gratitude and non-gratitude throughout the day. Can you identify what hindrances are present in your moments of reactivity that prevent you from opening in gratitude right now?
What are they? Identify a person for whom you would like to write and deliver a letter of gratitude. We will be writing this letter next week. Gratitude is one of the sweet shortcuts to finding peace of mind and happiness inside. Y ou have no cause for anything but gratitude and joy. Often we're told to remember to be grateful for blessings or good fortune. But Mindfulness teaches us to be grateful no matter the conditions of the present moment. It is awareness of the present moment itself that is cause for gratitude and joy. Gratitude is cultivated as an inclination or attitude of mind not dependent on conditions.
In the quote below, we see that the Buddha himself taught that gratitude is necessary for joy, wisdom and integrity. A person of no integrity is ungrateful and unthankful. This ingratitude, this lack of thankfulness, is advocated by rude people. It is entirely on the level of people of no skill, wisdom or integrity. A person of integrity is grateful and thankful. This gratitude, this thankfulness, is advocated by those who live happily, skillfully and wisely.
It is entirely on the level of people of integrity. For one thing, gratitude helps develop patience. Psychologists have corroborated the gratitude-patience link. People with a strong sense of gratitude are more likely to be able to delay gratification, passing on a small reward now in favor of a greater reward later. Developing a sense of gratitude can help stop impulsive, immediate gratification behavior in favor of the long view. Gratitude assures us that what we have is enough; greed and gratitude cannot peacefully coexist. The same goes for jealousy, regret, resentment, and many other negative emotions.
Jack Kornfield, advises us to be grateful for difficulties. Di: And it is all the wise ones who came before, parents and teachers in life - beginning with the earth, for whom we are to offer our greatest honor, appreciation, gratitude and love. In certain temples there is actually a prayer that one offers asking for difficulties, " May I be given the appropriate difficulties so that my heart can truly open with compassion.
To be mindful, is to see the world as it is without judgments and bias. It is responding to the world rather than reacting to it. Gratitude helps us be fully present and attentive to our experience and surroundings, and open to the benefits that are present this moment. A lack of gratitude means we are not paying attention and are taking this human existence for granted. We take it as a given, and then we complain that it isn't working out as we wanted it to.
When we see ourselves and everyone else as separate atomized individuals with needs to be filled, we can become overwhelmed by all the unfilled needs-the grasping and wanting can be consuming. Instead, we can see the world as a place of belonging and connection. Then we are not weighed down. A mind of gratitude helps us see more clearly. We are sitting within the awakened heart, releasing ourselves to the pristine awareness that deeply belongs to the universe and is grateful for it. To cultivate a mind of gratitude, the most important element is maintaining a daily mindfulness practice.
Remembering to be grateful for the practice, the awakening to the truth, to the sangha and all that contributes. Moment-to-moment mindfulness and gratitude go hand in hand. A good way to strengthen mindfulness is to set aside some time every day to fully engage in mindfulness. May this gratitude be continually expressed through my body, speech, and mind. DI: This means that you have the capacity to be grateful not just because you get what you want or as a result of particular conditions of good fortune.
This gratitude, this thankfulness, is advocated by those that are skillful and clear-seeing. Gratitude rests entirely on the reality of interdependence. This is a simple act of taking a few minutes of counting being thankful for the new day ahead. Recognizing the basics such as having fresh air to breathe, a shelter above your head and a body to get you through the day can actually provide you a better perspective and kick start the gratitude of the reality of your life.
Showing gratitude to the people who have contributed to your life and presence may be something we know we need to do more often, but this is usually something we take for granted. Which two? They care for them, they nourish them, they introduced them to this world. When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with your parents or showed your gratitude to them?
The gestures do not need to be grand or expensive. How many times have you found yourself rushing from one task to the next, jam-packing your schedule with one activity after another in a mindless pursuit of your goals? Who knows? Tomorrow, death comes. However, being passionate with what you do today is different from carelessly and habitually going through the motions as you forget the value and benefit of doing what is most needed.
When you try to cling on to something that is not meant to be, that can hinder your path to happiness. Na Tumhaka Sutta :. Letting go of attachments is a must to experience happiness. In life, you are attached to many things: people, material things, your work, your ideas, opinions, goals, and desires. These attachments can lead to frustrations because you are continually clinging to them, afraid of loss. This does not equate to not caring about anyone or anything instead, you must learn to accept things for what they are.
One good example is distressing about a past mistake or a relationship, which can usually cause serious feelings of grief. Recognize the benefit of your own life and you will be grateful. Students leaving a meditation retreat will sometimes ask me to recommend a mindfulness practice they can incorporate into their daily routine that will keep them in touch with the experiences they've had during the retreat. There are many such practices, but occasionally I suggest one that almost always surprises them and sometimes draws skepticism-the mindful cultivation of gratitude.
NOTES FROM AWAKENING JOY: CHAPTER 8 - LOVING OTHERS
Gratitude is the sweetest of all the practices for living the dharma in daily life and the most easily cultivated, requiring the least sacrifice for what is gained in return. It is a very powerful form of mindfulness practice, particularly for students who have depressive or self-defeating feelings, those who have access to wonder as an ecstatic state, and those with a reactive personality who habitually notice everything that's wrong in a situation. The Buddha taught that every human birth is precious and worthy of gratitude.
In one of his well-known analogies, he said that receiving a human birth is more rare than the chance that a blind turtle floating in the ocean would stick its head through a small hoop. He would often instruct a monk to take his ground cloth into the forest, sit at the base of a tree, and begin "gladdening the heart" by reflecting on the series of fortunate circumstances that had given the monk the motivation and ability to seek freedom through understanding the dharma. Practicing mindfulness of gratitude consistently leads to a direct experience of being connected to life and the realization that there is a larger context in which your personal story is unfolding.
Being relieved of the endless wants and worries of your life's drama, even temporarily, is liberating. Cultivating thankfulness for being part of life blossoms into a feeling of being blessed, not in the sense of winning the lottery, but in a more refined appreciation for the interdependent nature of life. It also elicits feelings of generosity, which create further joy. Gratitude can soften a heart that has become too guarded, and it builds the capacity for forgiveness, which creates the clarity of mind that is ideal for spiritual development.
Let me be clear: The practice of gratitude is not in any way a denial of life's difficulties. We live in troubling times, and no doubt you've experienced many challenges, uncertainties, and disappointments in your own life. Nor does the practice of gratitude deny the Buddha's teaching on death: Death is certain; your death is certain; the time of death is unknown; the time of your death is unknown. Rather, gratitude practice is useful because it turns the mind in such a way that it enables you to live into life or, more accurately, to die into life.
Having access to the joy and wonderment of life is the antidote to feelings of scarcity and loss. It allows you to meet life's difficulties with an open heart.
- Why We Aren’t Generous All the Time!
- How 30 Days of Kindness Made Me a Better Person.
- The Path of Compassion.
The understanding you gain from practicing gratitude frees you from being lost or identified with either the negative or the positive aspects of life, letting you simply meet life in each moment as it rises. In the Bible the disciple Paul instructs, "In everything give thanks. What can seem unfortunate at first may turn out to be an unforeseen blessing. There is a very old Sufi story about a man whose son captured a strong, beautiful, wild horse, and all the neighbors told the man how fortunate he was.
The man patiently replied, "We will see. Again the man answered, "We will see. When the man's friends told him how lucky the broken leg was, the man would only say, "We will see. Gratitude practiced in this manner brings delight, balances out your tendency to focus on the negative, and can even lift a dark mood.
There are numerous ways to use mindfulness to cultivate gratitude. Of course you acknowledge your appreciation when things are going well. But even more helpful is to notice those things for which you are grateful when you are contracted physically or emotionally. You can also practice being consciously grateful to your family, friends, teachers, benefactors, and all those who have come before you who have made it possible for your existence to be comfortable, informed, and empowered. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to mentally note the many beings who have invisibly served you by providing medicine, shelter, safety, food, and education.
If you were asked to make a list of things for which you are grateful, how long would this list be items, , ? Most likely you would include your health, your mind's ability to function well, family, friends, and freedom. But would it include the basics, like a safe place to sleep, clean air and water, food, and medicine? What about for Earth itself, blue skies, a child's laughter, a warm touch, the smell of spring, the tang of salt, the sweetness of sugar, or that morning cup of coffee?
The making of such a list is not meant to make you feel indebted but is intended to clarify your understanding of how life really is. It is a reflective meditation that uses mindfulness to carry you beyond the superficial to a deeper experience of your life unfolding moment by moment. You learn to throw off the blinders of habitual assumptions that prevent you from perceiving the miracle of life.
The next step in gratitude practice is to actively notice things you are grateful for throughout your regular day. In other words, there is a level of well-being and community cooperation that is supporting you even in the midst of your bad day. You might ask yourself about your "gratitude ratio. Or do the bad things receive a disproportionate amount of your attention, such that you have a distorted sense of your life?
The purpose of this inquiry is not to judge yourself but rather to motivate yourself to find a truer perspective. Why would you want to go around with a distorted view of your life, particularly when it makes you miserable? Without instruction, reflecting on gratitude can seem boring or sentimental, evoking memories of your mother admonishing you to eat all the food on your plate.
Part of the confusion is that many people have come to equate gratitude with obligation. Real gratitude begins as clear-seeing for that which has come into your life. Out of this appreciation, a natural, spontaneity arises that feeds gratitude, which is often followed by generosity. There is a shadow side to gratitude, in which reality gets distorted in yet another way. It manifests as a hopeless or helpless attitude disguised as gratitude, and it expresses itself in a self-defeating, passive voice-"Yes, these things are wrong and unfair, but I should be grateful for what I have," or "At least we have this," or "Compared to these people, look how much better off we are.
Gratitude is not an excuse for being passive in the face of personal or societal need or injustice. You are not excused from working to become a caring person, creating a better life for your loved ones, or protecting the innocent. Acknowledging the great gift of a human life through gratitude is just the opposite; it is a call to action to be a caring human being while acknowledging the folly of basing your happiness on the outcome of your actions.
This might seem desirable, but in fact there will always be things wrong in your life. So you reduce your experience of being alive if you are only responding to the negative. Is that what you want out of life? The mind tends to take for granted whatever is both desirable and present. This happens because the mind wants constant stimulation, and whatever is present and pleasant tends not to create that stimulation. You can see this for yourself around eating a favorite food: Notice how the first few bites taste so delicious, then how quickly the mind ceases to register the pleasant sensations.
It is like this with everything-a cool breeze on a hot day, the sound of a stream as it flows over rocks, the freshness of the morning air after a rain. They all simply disappear from consciousness in the untrained mind. A mind trained in mindfulness will stay attuned far longer and note more details of that which is good. The phenomenon of comparing mind is another hindrance to practicing gratitude.
Unrecognized arrogance arising from a hidden sense of entitlement can also be an obstacle to practicing gratitude. When you have a strong feeling of entitlement, you don't notice what is going well, but rather what is not right. It can stem from a sense of either having suffered unfairly or having been deprived. It can also arise from feeling special because you are smart, a hard worker, or successful. At the subtle level of mindfulness, this arrogance is a form of ignorance where these two truths of life are mixed together.
Gratitude for the grace of conscious embodiment evolves into the practice of selfless gratitude , in which your concerns slowly but surely shift from being mostly about yourself and those close to you to being about all living beings. As this occurs, you need less and less in the way of good fortune. It becomes enough that there are those who are happy, who are receiving love, who are safe, and who have a promising future. It is not that you would not prefer good things for yourself, but your sense of well-being is no longer contingent on external circumstances.
You are able to rejoice that amidst all life's suffering there exists joy. You realize that pain and joy are part of a mysterious whole. When this state of selfless gratitude starts to blossom, your mind becomes more spacious, quieter, and your heart receives its first taste of the long-sought release from fear and wanting. This is grace.
State an intention. What did you experience as you intentioned to be more grateful? What did you notice about gratitude while being in the present moment?
The very act of appreciating someone or something instantly calls forth joy. Expressing our appreciation and gratitude to others not only feels good, but it helps make the world a friendlier place. Discussion Questions to Explore the Topic of Gratitude : 1. Who do you feel grateful for in your life? What are the things you feel grateful for? How do you notice gratitude in your daily life? What can you commit to as a gratitude practice each day? Support Practices that Strengthen Gratitude.
Choose a particular task or situation in your life that feels like a burden. You can do this in your private journal or set up an email exchange with a Joy Buddy. Exercise: Gratitude Letter. May I express my appreciation and gratitude to others each day. May I be conscious, calm, contented, caring and compassionate. May I honor life and be a contribution. May I live in joy, love and peace. May you be conscious, calm, contented, caring and compassionate. May you honor life and be a contribution. May you live in joy, love and peace.