As another January draws to a close, I want to thank you for your words of encouragement, your comments and emails, and your dedication to your practice. It’s so much easier to sit on the cushion each day, knowing that many of you are joining me in that practice.
A practice of gratitude is a support towards cultivating joy.
Jack Kornfield writes,
Gratitude is a gracious acknowledgment of all that sustains us, a bow to our blessings, great and small. Gratitude is the confidence in life itself. In it, we feel how the same force that pushes grass through cracks in the sidewalk invigorates our own life. In Tibet, the monks and nuns even offer prayers of gratitude for the suffering they have been given: “Grant that I might have enough suffering to awaken in me the deepest possible compassion and wisdom.” Gratitude does not envy or compare. Gratitude receives in wonder the myriad offerings of rain and sunlight, the care that supports every single life.
Christina Feldman writes,
It is helpful for us to pause again and again in our day and to know that our life is the gift of many. This is not sentimental nor a denial of the many hardships of the past and the present. It is about making a choice concerning where we abide and make our home, in resentment or in gratitude. We are grateful to others, and we learn to offer gratitude to ourselves. The many efforts we make, the moments we choose to be awake rather than asleep, are worthy of gratitude; we are grateful to our friends and benefactors and at times know that even the most difficult people and events in our lives have been the ones that have encouraged us to take the next step on our path to living a wakeful and compassionate life.
There are many ways to cultivate gratitude.
- Many people keep a gratitude journal, where they write down 3 or 5 or 10 things that they were grateful for that day.
- Quite often, as we end a Wednesday practice at the Saskatoon Insight Meditation Community, we’ll spend a few minutes with a “gratitude buddy” asking, and answering, the question: “What are you grateful for?”
- Sylvia Boorstein wrote about a daily gratitude email exchange she started with a friend:
- The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley has a project called Thnx4, which offers a 10-Day Intensive, or 21-Day Gratitude Challenge.
You can probably find a multitude of options for cultivating your gratitude muscle… but like anything, it’s a matter of doing it. So pick one thing to try, set your intention, perhaps find a buddy, and do it!
I’d like to take this moment to offer special appreciation to the following:
- Jeanne Corrigal is the community dharma leader of the Saskatoon Insight Meditation Community, and offers courses. She is my primary mentor and inspiration, and I am deeply indebted to her for her generosity in sharing her wisdom and teachings and time.
- Bhante Henepola Gunaratana is the founding abbot of the Bhavana Society and has written many books, including the main reference for this month’s emails, The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English.
- dharmaseed.org is an online resource dedicated to making the Buddhist teachings of Insight Meditation and associated practices available to all. I provided links to several talks and guided meditations on their site.
- audiodharma.org is an archive of Dharma talks given by Gil Fronsdal, Andrea Fella and various guest speakers at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California. I provided links to several talks and guided meditations on this site too.
I tried to include links and references to the many books, blogs, and courses from which I drew material. Please let me know of any omissions or clarifications, and I will happily amend the post. While many people have contributed towards this month’s emails, any errors are strictly my own.
I will close this email with the closing words from Joseph Goldstein’s Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening:
May the merit of this Dharma offering be shared by all beings everywhere. May it be dedicated to the welfare, happiness, and awakening of all.
With a grateful heart,