“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”—Thornton Wilder
When we wake up in the morning each day, we have a choice in how we get to live this new day on Earth. We can wake up with a sense of dread, unwilling to rise up to the challenges before us. Or, we can wake up with a sense of wonder and excitement, ready to take on whatever comes our way. I believe the key to waking up with joy lies in the practice of gratitude.
Eating with Gratitude
In practicing dinacharya, or Ayurvedic daily routine, gratitude plays a big part, especially around food practices. I often recommend that people have a practice of saying grace before eating, whether that be in a form of a verbal prayer, or simply a few deep breaths and silent thanksgiving. By practicing gratitude before eating, we are acknowledging that any food we bring into our bodies becomes a part of us and that all matter that joins with us is all that ever has been, all that is, and all there ever will be. We acknowledge that we rely on other life to sustain our own and that others have worked hard and sacrificed for the food that has been put on our plate. Mealtimes are perfect for tuning into our interconnectedness with the rest of nature and the inevitable dependency we have on others.
If you do not yet have a habit of saying grace before eating, this is the perfect time of year to start. Simply sit before your meal, and calmly take in three deep breaths. As you breathe, visualize and give thanks to all who have made it possible for you to have this meal before you - it may be the farmers, your family, the grocery store workers, and even the food itself. Taking this time for gratitude also prepares your body to receive the food so that it digests efficiently and brings you nourishment.
Starting & Ending Your Day with Grace
Of course, practicing gratitude isn't limited to mealtimes. The more gratitude permeates our consciousness throughout the day, the more we appreciate our day-to-day existence. Another great way to incorporate gratitude is to think about at least three things you are grateful for when you wake up in the morning, and three things are you grateful for right before you go to bed. You can even write them down in a journal if you feel called. There are some pretty creative, colorful gratitude journals to get yourself motivated (there are even gratitude journals for people who hate gratitude journals!).
In today's day and age, we know that there is a lot to complain about. But while we know that life is hard, there is so much to be gained by taking the time to acknowledge our blessings, no matter how small. As the Buddha allegedly said, “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful.” There is always something to be thankful for, each and every day. Happy Thanksgiving!