In insight meditation, we often practice cultivating four specific qualities of the heart: kindness (a.k.a. metta, loving kindness, goodwill, friendliness), compassion, joy (particularly joy in the joy of others, a.k.a. mudita), and equanimity (having a balanced perspective). In some circles, my fellow practitioners and I have discussed that this list could include a fifth quality: gratitude.
James Baraz talks about cultivating gratitude in his book Awakening Joy: 10 Steps to Happiness:
you don’t have to wait for appreciation and gratitude to spontaneously arise. You can consciously cultivate this powerful ally to a joyful heart. Each day of your life, you have many opportunities to develop a grateful heart by paying attention to the blessings, big and small, that are all around you. Even if things are uncomfortable, or not as you might wish, it is still possible to find something you can be grateful for.James Baraz, Awakening Joy: 10 Steps to Happiness, page 61
There are numerous studies too into the benefits of gratitude… Here are a couple of references…
- A short article: “The Amazing Effects of Gratitude”
- A long whitepaper summarizing various studies (the abstract of a couple of pages gives a good summary): “The Science of Gratitude”
If you’d like to take in a guided practice, the Greater Good in Action page has a Gratitude Meditation recording and script here:
Many people keep a gratitude journal, or they share their daily list of gratitude with a buddy. (I am grateful for my gratitude buddy who is very good at texting something regularly, even though I have not yet made this into a regular practice myself!)
I know many people on the email list have gratitude practices of their own – so I would love to hear about your practices.
In terms of our meditation practice, Sharon Salzberg includes gratitude in her list of “Ten Ways to Deepen Your Practice”
Recollect those who have helped or inspired us. Sometimes even a small act of kindness on someone’s part makes an essential difference for us. Cultivating gratitude is a way of honoring these people, and also a way of lifting our spirits and reminding us of the power of good-heartedness.Sharon Salzberg, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program, week four, “Ten Ways to Deepen Your Practice”
You can also find the list here:
In this sense of honoring good-heartedness:
- Thank you for inviting these words into your inbox for the month of January. It’s a joyful process for me, to connect deeply to my own practice, to find where I have questions and curiosity, and then to try to express what I have learned, with a wish that it be of benefit.
- I also appreciate those who were able to join the online meditations, or who checked the recordings later and offered helpful feedback. It has been a learning process for me, to find ways to lead a practice from a place of embodiment and authenticity – I appreciate your patience with imperfection!
- Jeanne Corrigal, the Guiding Teacher for the Saskatoon Insight Meditation Community (SIMC), has been an influential teacher, mentor, and support in my practice for many years.
- I have many meditation friends who also practice with the SIMC, and their dedicated practice inspires me.
- Mark Coleman and Martin Aylward, the teachers of the mindfulness teacher training program, put together the curriculum for a six-week mindfulness course that I’ll have a chance to teach in the spring – I used this month of reflections to build on their course outline.
- My training colleagues are also wonderful supports in this program too. I have been connecting with a few of them over the past several months, sharing ideas and practicing together.
- Diana Winston leads a similar program through the Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) at UCLA. I have taken several courses through MARC and have benefitted from the blending of science and practice in the programs offered.
- At times, poetry can express some concepts better than mere words. I have linked to many pages where you can find poems for inspiration.
- I especially enjoy getting daily emails from Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. You can read them on her site and sign up too:
- Phyllis Cole-Dai curated a large selection of poems, which became a lovely printed collection. Find the poems and learn about the book:
- There’s an entire website dedicated to gratefulness, which includes lots of poems too
- So many teachers have shared talks and mediations online. Two of my favorite sources are dharmaseed.org and audiodharma.org. Both sites have search bars, so if you’re interested in a particular practice, you’ll probably find something!
- My dogs, Reece and Savanna, have been very patient with me as I spent a lot more time on the computer this month than they thought I should.
If you’re wondering what to do now this series is done for the year, here are a few suggestions:
- You are very welcome to join the Saskatoon Insight Meditation Community for our Wednesday evening session, with meditation and teaching from Jeanne and occasional guests. We are also having three “Community Circles” coming up on February 2, March 2, and March 30, as opportunities to connect in a more relational way. Details on the website:
- Sharon Salzberg is again offering her “Real Happiness Meditation Challenge” for the month of February – you get daily emails that follow her “Real Happiness” book:
- Gil Fronsdal, Andrea Fella, and other teachers from the Insight Meditation Center offer various sessions online throughout the day. See their calendar (Pacific Time):
- Mark Coleman also offers daily nature meditations (Pacific Time):
- And check other meditation groups too – there are many places offering weekly or daily practices. Here is a non-exhaustive list!
Through this month, we have cultivated goodness that will touch the lives of innumerable beings – including ourselves. I am grateful for you.
With warm wishes and great appreciation,