As our friends at lululemon remind us, expressing gratitude daily can create a powerful shift in how we see the world. And as we head into holiday stress, it's especially important to remember all we have to be thankful for.
Of course, gratitude doesn't always come easily. To help, guest blogger Lauri Bunting offers this simple advice:
Yoga off the Mat: The Gratitude Journey
You are in a forest. The ground is charred and the trees are black and barren. The streambed is dry and everything around it is parched. The sky is dark. Ominous clouds eclipse the sun. The view in every direction is bleak, seemingly devoid of any life-supporting properties. Aside from the sound of your own agitated breath, it is silent.
Life feels like this sometimes—dark, empty, and hopeless. Yet it is only when we are in the thick of the forest, focused on our own misery, that we are blinded to life beyond. One method of climbing out of the darkness is gratitude.
Like a magical spaceship, gratitude allows us to rise out of the darkness and get more of a birds-eye view on our lives. From this elevated vantage point, we see that only a tiny part of the forest has been burned, that it is surrounded by verdant growth, teaming with life, promise and possibilities. In time, the charred forest will also give way to new growth.
So where does one find this magical vessel called gratitude? It is parked in the hearts of each and every person, door wide open, beckoning passengers to climb up the ladder and board. There are five rungs to the ladder.
First Rung: Breath
Each morning, when you wake, continue lying in bed with your eyes closed and count backward from five, focusing on nothing other than breath flowing in and breath flowing out. If your mind drifts with thoughts, start over. This simple exercise sweeps the mind clean, preparing it for the gratitude journey.
Second Rung: Gratitude
After your five focused breaths, take a gratitude inventory. This means that you go through the list of everything for which you are thankful, however large, small, important, or insignificant it may seem. Make sure to visualize each token of gratitude and feel the sensations that accompanies it.
Third Rung: Kindness
After you have completed your gratitude inventory, make a clear intention to perform at least one random act of kindness during the day. This may be as simple as a smile and words of appreciation to the grocery store clerk. It may involve dropping resentment or anger that you feel towards a loved one, and doing something that will elicit a smile. Let it rise from your heart.
Fourth Rung: Release
During the day, be aware of any negative or self-limiting thoughts that arise. They are useless cargo, which impede your ability to move through life.
Fifth Rung: Gratitude
In the evening, just before you drift off to sleep, take another gratitude inventory.
Enjoy the journey!
Lauri Hoffman Bunting brings more than 20 years of experience to her yoga teaching, emphasizing breath and alignment as important keys to unlocking physical and energetic blocks in the body. Currently, she is studying Yoga Therapy through Integrative Yoga Therapy. Lauri also is a certified plant-based chef and wellness coach. She enjoys working with individuals to help them achieve optimal wellness through yoga, diet and lifestyle.