Standing Up For Gratitude Every Day
Here in Canada it is thanksgiving, a day when the collective focuses on gratitude for all that we have been gifted with. Of course most of us believe it would be beautiful if everyone shared his or her gratitude every moment of every day. I am certain that the ripple on effect is much more enhanced on days like this and it brings a lot of smiles when reading the facebook pages of others.
"To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is
generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven."
~Johannes A. Gaertner
It was only through my adventures as a Gratidude that I realised how challenging it was for me to express feelings of gratitude and I was surprised how much negative attention it received. Believe it or not there were days when I was challenged to share it due to the insults from those who thought we were an annoyance to their day. I grew up in a town where I believed expression of such feelings ( especially for young men ) would have been considered "touchy feely" and incited some form of torment. It often did, until I learned to shut it down. Joseph Stalin even said; "Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs." It goes to show where a lack of gratitude can take us if we share his thoughts. I am not sure anyone can know how challenging it was for me the first time I did the Gratitude Dance in front of 600 teenagers, but they embraced it and my vulnerability had been rewarded. The positive experiences outweighed the negative ( and those negative experiences were only negative as long as I perceived them that way ) and I feel stronger in my life as a result of being fortunate enough to share it with so many. And now I want to share why I think it can make your life better too.
"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others."
- Marcus Tullius Cicero
When I begun sharing I thought I understood gratitude's power fully enough, but I was way off. Gratitude has the power to change your life in to something truly amazing. Sometimes it is not always easy to see the gratitude. In the beginning when Brad and I shared our message we were living off pennies to our name. We did what we could and for all of that we were grateful. There have been many challenges along the way, but amidst the bleakest of days there were blessings to be found. Even in times of the deaths of loved ones. The trick was in finding those blessings. Now years later I am seeing that the constant and never ending gratitude changed my life more than I could have ever imagined. It took persistent effort, honesty with myself, and a desire to be happy independent of life's situations. Have I mastered it? I am on human journey, there is always room for greater self realisation.
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend."
- Melody Beattie
Finding the gratitude for the people and experiences that have hurt me has brought some of the greatest healing. Of course I allow myself to go through the stages of sadness, anger and even desires for revenge (without acting on it). I refuse to carry an insincere facade of positivity, but my desire is to find the best within all situations and to get to the place of gratitude for everything and everyone no matter how difficult it seems, or how much my ego resists. I would hope others would want to find that peace with me and we need to give in order to receive. When I am able to find that space of gratitude for them, I am a step closer to finding peace. Sometimes I can find it within a day, some of my greatest challenges I am still seeking greater depths of gratitude for. We probably have to experience all human feelings, but know that gratitude is one that we really have to stand up for in our life. A daily effort and the help of compassionate and understanding mentors and friends yields the happiness we seek. And of course spend time meditating, for it is through meditation that we can transcend the duality of life and experience the bliss that is changeless.
On this Thanksgiving Day I want to send out a big thank you to all of you in the world who have taught me to be happy, whether through our friendship or our differences. It has made me stronger, it has enhanced my faith in our world and our people, and it has made me want to live each day in service to others, paying it forward. May all your years be blessed, and may you find the blessing in whatever situation you find yourself in today.
Yogananda, the Gita and You
There are many versions of the Bagavad Gita circulating, influencing the spiritual paths that millions choose to walk. A timeless text full of allegory and metaphors, it can speak to us at every level of our journey. Each time I read it I peel back another layer of the onion that is my spiritual casing.
I have digested a few copies in my lifetime, each taking me on a deeper journey down the rabbit hole. The version by Easwaren sits by my bedside, a simple read and translation, easily digestible in the moments before I retire for the night.
These last few weeks I have been ravenously digesting "God Talks With Arjuna: The Bagavad Gita" by Paramhansa Yogananda, in tandem with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. I smile as the words wind their way through my consciousness as a much deeper understanding of each of the verses of this text is broken down in to the most minute of details. Suddenly simple phrases that I glossed over have taken on a whole new meaning.
I had been aware of some of the symbology of the great battle, one that represents the battle that happens within each and every one of us who are attempting to connect with our higher power in every day living. Yogananda takes it much deeper, dedicating time and intuitive insights to the symbology of each of the prominent characters within the text. You will relate to each and every one of them, the good and the evil, because they exist within us all.
This is not an intellectual thesis; this is based upon Yogananda's own deep intuitional dialogue with the truth at the heart of the matter. Listen deeply as you read and I trust you will feel the words yourself, in a space just behind the intellectual meaning of them.
"Material desire is the supreme ruler in the person who does not meditate."
Over the years I have meditated daily, and in the few years that I have been following the guidance of Yogiraj Gurunath Siddhanath the experience has become that much more blissful. But the path has not been devoid of challenges, and at times it has felt like there was nobody to turn to who could share their authentic experience of the path. At times it has been difficult to remind myself that I have been making progress when the din of life's responsibilities drown out the bliss on the dark days. Yogananda provides that voice of encouragement for me on many occasions and this book hits the mark beautifully for me. I seem to pick it up to read it and catch the exact words I need to hear that day.
"He feels distressed and bewildered realising he has neither passing pleasures, nor inner joys. Since he has neither, he pacifies his discouragement by proclaiming he wants neither. If he doesn't pull himself out of this indifference, he becomes a slothful devotee whose spiritual life will stagnate and die. But if he continues to persevere, he finds that this state is only a momentary vacuum in his sahdana ( spiritual practice )."
A few months ago I could not see the point of all this meditating as I was not experiencing the joys inwardly and it seemed like nothing but setback was happening in the world of earthly pleasures. I was doubting the point of even seeking this idea of God, one I was seeking based only upon the proclaimed experience of another who had been there first. But intuitively I trust the wisdom of Yogiraj Gurunath and from somewhere inside I am grateful that I found the strength to persevere because the faith in my chosen path is greater than it has been for a long time.
"The beginner devotee, nevertheless, may be so attached to immediate material passions that he passes through these periods of irrational doubt in which he does not crave the bliss and security of the cosmic consciousness, with its mastery over the three worlds."
If I did not have some material desires I would probably be enjoying a life in some other realm altogether. Through the practice of my meditation and what I term the grace of God, I am blessed with the material desires that want to be experienced. At the same time I am released of the attachment to them. There have been many material desires in my past, some fulfilled, some still waiting for their moment in the sun. There are many that I am enjoying in my life at the moment and this text reminds me of the source of all of them. And if ever the fear of losing them rears its head I have the wisdom from the great sages and the practice of Kriya Yoga, my Excalibur (the sword of truth), to keep me on track.
This path has required dedication and concentration and relinquishing the doubts of not knowing anything about the happiness existing beyond this physical realm. It has required me trusting myself in the face of the doubts of others, knowing intuitively that this is my path, even if it is not theirs. After the end of the meditation I carry a new sense of inner peace with me throughout the day, one that was not there in times gone by. Our material successes can be measured due their tangible nature, our spiritual successes can only be known inwardly by the level of peace we experience.
This book comes (in two volumes) with a hearty recommendation from me. The volumes themselves are beautiful but they serve no purpose if they only decorate your walls. This is one to sit and read, write your own notes beside, and meditate upon deeply. Maybe you will agree with him, maybe it will make you mad, but I believe that you will find some purpose in taking the time to digest the words of this great yogic master.
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