The Breadth of Gratitude – Part 1
To orient ourselves well, the most of us do not breathe well or deeply into the day and as we go about things. We also tend to overthink or get stuck in a run-on worry to things in place of breathing fully to them. When we do, we cut or poison the circuitry of “the brain” that lives in our hearts from our breath, and from there away from an expression of a compassionate love. To center our minds, we have to center our hearts.
The mental disc that we each write and overwrite and drive and overdrive is specific to humans and so our personal challenge from any other creation on earth. I actually watch Theo often to see how he skims through life in skill sets far wiser than mine most times. Theo is a wonderful teacher. Animals just are.
Animals are neutral and unattached to things about their day yet hugely present in the same breadth. In times of need, I watch Theo problem solve calmly, if not comically and wisely, and above all most efficiently. At points of rest, he truly rests. At other times, he is working hard in his own way at the same time that he just goes with the flow. I’m pretty sure his sense of self stays pretty intact through the course of the day, too. He also stays present away from any overlain markers of time.
It is said animal hearts are pure. This is because animals don’t live in a world of feelings exclusively or hang on to their feelings disproportionately like we humans tend to do. They neither dip too far into the past nor too far ahead into the future as to offset the flourishing of their own survival. Most important, animals receive and extend but do not judge.
They reside instead within a balanced breathing room of instinct, a consciousness of thoughts, their own moral code of complex emotions which includes the ability to compete, plan, demonstrate caring and empathy, and are quite naturally sensory immersed into a vivid daily world of gratitude. In this space, they can access their wisdom and the full range of their emotional intelligence quite directly. Just to watch a bee or a bird or a cat or a dog or an elephant or a horse or any natural wonder at work in a day is to be aware how rich this open medium is and how plenty.
The heart is the central station point of gratitude. This connection and apprehension alone shifts our attitude significantly. Our heart space is also our central marker to connecting to our own presence. Gratitude and appreciation then feeds the mind and shifts attitude and perspective and our life approach. So how can we more purely get to that “open” space of a deeper gratitude in our day, too?
How can we help ourselves to not sleepwalk past the many simple mysteries and miracles abounding in our lives at each moment and help keep ourselves inspired and peacefully alive? How can we as much help ourselves to better override our automatic cycles of disengagement be it in how we wake up, dress, eat, play, make ourselves present to family, community, our own selves? In other words, how can we be mindful to our day?
Curiously, all emotions come from the heart and not from the brain. More, every emotion is neutral to the heart. This includes anger, sadness, frustration, humiliation, joy, accomplishment and the gamut in between. Empathy and compassion are emotions that also live in the heart. Yet, in the moment that emotion becomes a feeling, what we feel comes from the mind and not from the heart anymore.
It is said that a thought stays pure and undiluted in its strength of empathy and compassion inside the heart for a fleeting second. Actually, it is shorter as a time of pure existence than it is to say the word “second”. Emotion, you see, is often distorted once the mind takes over with any egoic thought, that is any thought of self-preservation. That conscious or subconscious action alone then transforms the emotion into a negative or positive charge. That charge is called a feeling.
Feelings are part of the human condition and necessary to our survival. They also best serve us when we recognize them and acknowledge our truths but take care to not overindulge them and the stories behind them. In fact, if you watch yourself truly feel compassion or empathy for a situation without any added egoic thought, you will see it has no charge. It actually is a neutral charge that then expands into your heart as a deepening sensation of a compassionate love.
The times we live in have been inundated by teaching minds to transform their world by how they feel. This is why situations we often find ourselves in can then paralyze. But can situations really do that? Or, is it more that how we feel about it does? How can we then conduct our lives by a premise of gratitude over the rule of our feelings?
What if we let feelings go as our benchmark ruler of how to evaluate our successes and lower points through a day and made a choice to simply become more neutral and grateful to each moment? And what if we each so cared for the compassion that we can inspire in our hearts as to have compassion become the governor of our mind-body through things?
Feelings are ruled by imagination and perception and by orders of the past and the future. Gratitude rules by a frequency of presence and faith in what is. Gratitude invites your heart to take charge of what it can take charge of and to let go of all the rest and all that is attached to story.
Indeed, it is quite incredible how much we do in a day and do on automatic to get through it. We are happy with goals that we accomplish and that is great, but these are largely external markers of reference and not internal points of connection to our blessed form.
How many of us wake up and consistently thank the miracle of waking up before we set to then ready our day? How often do we thank the beauty of the sky or the sunlight or the miracle that we breathe or can move a body part? What of our quiet blessing to a good neighbour, the stranger who gives us a smile, the perfect word or sound or gesture showing itself to us in a moment at the perfect time, the flower that comes to show us beauty, the rain that invites us to rest?
What can we do to elevate our gratitude muscle in a day? And what rituals can we create for ourselves that can help us come back to a mindful presence more quickly when we are taken over by thought and anxiety or worry or concern or any question mark during the course of a day?
When we become grateful, our bodies become better systems of function. When we apprehend what we receive, we can acknowledge the goodness in our lives more sensitively – whether to other people, nature or to a higher power.
The summer is a beautiful time to reconnect to our playfulness and joys. It is also a marvellous season to engage our gratitude muscle so we are with a better preparational foundation for the busier harvest, incubation and rejuvenation seasons ahead. Why wait for a new leaf to come when you can begin to connect your inner space to a leaf of gratitude — in this very now, and so into each day?
Photography by Marina Mashaal