At the end of our conscious dance sessions many dancers have a strong a sense of gratitude… For the space, the music, the facilitation, the community that encourages free expression.
I remember after participating in one of my first silent yoga and meditation retreats nearly 20 years ago, other yogis expressed similar gratitude and thanks. While I had had a spectacularly insightful retreat myself, I was blown away by these clearly very heartfelt expressions of gratitude. I was curious about the development of this gratitude.
Practicing Gratitude is good for us. Science now has some results to tell us what ancient traditions have known for a long time. And many of us know this intuitively; and yet, how to practice?
My mother used to say to me as a child (who didn’t want to eat her broccoli), “You should be grateful for the food on your plate; there are children starving in Africa”. As it turns out, this is not the best way to train gratitude.
“Should’s” can hinder gratitude
Tuning into “should, must, ought to, have to” seems, in my case at least, to promote guilt and shame… “I should be more grateful, I’m an ungrateful wretch”; or confusion… “Why are there children starving in Africa? Why don’t the adults do something? They can have my broccoli.”
As it turns out gratitude is cultivated by mindful processes.
Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast encourages a 3 step process for developing gratitude:
1) Stop; be present in the moment.
2) Look for / behold the opportunity here and now.
3) Go; ACT from this listening and attending; be creative in action.
Just dance the joy that is here now
So while we can’t be grateful for everything, (some things are just shitty), we can be grateful in every moment. Echoing Victor Frankl, another famous holocaust survivor, Brother David Steindl-Rast says gratitude can be a chosen response to every moment.
So rather than “having to be grateful”, we can look for what we already have, what’s here already, to be grateful for.
Gratitude is also about belonging. When we recognise our connectedness and have humility for the great mystery in which we are embedded; when we say “YES” to this complex embedding, our gratitude will be a full bodied thanks-giving from our heart.
This is the gratitude that gives the measurable outcomes of wellbeing.
So practice dance, movement or mindfulness sitting and see how you relate to the great mystery with great joy; tune into the great fullness of life and experience gratitude. Every moment can be an invitation to explore how we become present, home in our bodies; using sound, breath and our time together to find opportunity in these moments to connect to joy; act with GRATITUDE.