Tuesday, March 31, 2020

On Gratitude During Uncertain Times: Six Offerings

Wood Gatherers in the Snow by Vincent van Gogh
by Kathleen Kraft

How do we take time out to feel grateful amidst the global tumult resulting from COVID-19? It has touched every aspect of our lives. We are in a state of collective shock; it’s hard not to be consumed by what is or is not going to happen in the near or distant future.

But, if we can stop and pause every day, there are still many, many things to be grateful for, and feeling grateful is a great balm for the mind. A bleak outlook can be mollified by the contentment—albeit sometimes fleeting—that gratitude brings.

Here are six short practices that I’ve found helpful in staying centered and grateful at this difficult moment in time:

1. Breath Practice. While lying down or seated I put my hands on my belly and close my eyes. On my inhale I say to myself, “I am grateful for my in-breath.” On my exhale I say to myself, “I am grateful for my out-breath.” I repeat this 4-6 times. Then, with my hands still on my belly, I observe the rise and fall of my breath until I feel ready to transition back into my day.

2. Gratitude Object. I have a little Native American rattle that is used for gratitude practice, but any small object that you care about is a good substitute. You might consider something that makes noise, like a small bell or a beaded necklace, as the sound the object makes can deepen your experience of your expression.

Find a comfortable seat. Take the object and place it in your palm, and then cover it with your other hand. Close your eyes and just hold the object, noticing the feel of it in your hands. Next, think of one thing you’re grateful for as you turn the object around in your hands. Then, think of one person you are grateful for as you turn it. If you like, you can alternate back and forth between the thing and the person as you turn the object. Then sit back, place the object in your lap and spend a few minutes being with your breath.

3. Bedtime Practice. Place your gratitude object on your bedside table. Look at it before you go to sleep and when you wake up.

4. Mantras. In Sanskrit, dhanya vad means I am grateful. While doing a mundane task, say doing the dishes or vacuuming, say to yourself “I am grateful for this simple activity.” Sometimes I chant om during house work to experience our connection to each other and the grounding effect om offers. You might also sing a song of gratitude or praise.

5. If You’re Unwell. If you are sick or have physical pain, lie down and place your hands on your belly or alongside your body, and bring your awareness to one place in your body where you are experiencing less pain or no pain. Breathe naturally and express either silently or out loud your gratitude for this place in your body that is free of pain. Be with this experience as long as you like.

6. Gratitude Toward Others. Tell someone in your life that you are grateful for them. Be specific and tell them what you love about them.

In closing, I offer you this gratitude poem from the 8th century:

My daily affairs are quite ordinary;
but I'm in total harmony with them.
I don't hold onto anything, don't reject anything;
nowhere an obstacle or conflict.
Who cares about wealth and honor?
Even the poorest thing shines.
My miraculous power and spiritual activity;
drawing water and carrying wood.

—Layman P'ang

Kathleen Kraft is a yoga teacher, writer, poet, and freelance editor. Her chapbook of poems Fairview Road was published by Finishing Line Press, and her work has appeared in many journals, including Five Points, Sugar House Review, Gargoyle, and The Satirist. She works at Yoga International; you can find her articles here. And you can find more information about her at kathleenyoga.com.

This post was edited by Nina Zolotow, Editor in Chief of the Accessible Yoga blog and co-author of Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being.

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