Gratitude for All Seasons

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Gratitude is the fusion of happiness and awe.

By cultivating authentic gratitude, we wake up to the beauty of each moment—whatever it contains. All experiences and emotions are greeted with an open heart and we become indestructible warriors of love.

I was just in the United States, visiting home for Thanksgiving—celebrating that holiday in the US the first time in a decade. The longer I live in rural Guatemala, the more I drift from the busy busy lifestyle I used to lead in the States—and the more intense the reverse culture shock is when I return for visits.

Mostly, I felt overwhelmed and had to work to stay grounded and present. At the same time, I was grateful to spend time with my cherished family and dear old friends.

By practicing gratitude on a regular basis, we can each cultivate and express the natural warmth and loving kindness that dwells within our heart—connecting more deeply with ourselves and others.

We can also shift to a higher level of consciousness that sees learning opportunities in all situations, realizing that our state of mind determines the state of our lives. Scientific studies show that having an attitude of gratitude enhances our physical and mental health.

Keep reading for 7 reminders to assist you on the path of gratitude.

 

Dedicating the Merit of our Practice

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(Read the original on elephant journal)

The other day, I stood alone in the temple in front of an altar full of a stunningly beautiful and potent mandala of crystals, Tibetan singing bowls, and Buddhas.

As I breathed with my palms together in prayer in front of my heart and wished that the journey my family and I are about to embark upon be safe, peaceful, and joyous, for one brief second my mind was clear and radiant.

I realized that this wish for myself and the two beings closest to me (my husband and daughter) was simultaneously a wish for all beings without exception. The pure and simple aspiration, “May the journey of all beings be safe, peaceful, healthy, and happy” welled up from that indescribable source that lies within each of us and is ever surrounding us all.

Dedicating the merit is fundamental to all meditation. It is absolutely essential and not to be overlooked. Here is an example of a dedication of merit you can recite at the end of your practice:

May the earth be wholesome everywhere
The world blessed with prosperity
May the poor and destitute find wealth
And the stooping animals be freed

May every being ailing with illness
Find relief at once from suffering
May all the sickness that afflict the living
Be instantly and permanently healed

May those who go in dread, have no more fear,
May captives be unchained and set free,
And may the weak now become strong,
May living beings help each other in kindness.

May travelers upon the road,
Find happiness no matter where they go,
And may they gain, without hardship,
The goals on which their hearts are set.

From the songs of birds and the sighing of trees,
From the shafts of light and from the sky itself,
May living beings, each and every one,
Perceive the constant sound of Dharma.

~ Shantideva

Metta Check-in

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Metta is a simple, peaceful and powerful technique of visualization and repetition of aspirations, or good wishes.

Here’s an example of a metta meditation that you can adapt for your own personal practice:

I sit on the ground with my legs crossed. I sit tall, feeling strong and grounded. I gently close my eyelids, and in my mind’s eye, I see my own face as if I’m looking in the mirror. I say to myself,

May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I be free from suffering.

Sometimes, this flows smoothly and easily. It feels splendid to offer myself these loving wishes. Other times, doubting voices arise in my mind. (“Why should I be happy?” “There is no freedom from suffering.”) Whatever comes up, I simply notice.

Next, I see my two living grandmothers sitting before me.

They are 89 and 92 now. I see them in their old age and I see them as I remember them as a child. I see them as the young, glamorous girls they were in old photographs. I hold their hands in mine and say:

May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be free from suffering.

This is easy. I love my grandmothers. They are wonderful. It feels natural and pleasant to send them these positive wishes.

Now, I see myself sitting there along with my two grandmas. I see my flaws and my strengths. I witness my body and my mind. I see my other beloveds have joined us. My parents, my husband, my daughter, my brother, my sister, my soul mates.

May we be safe.
May we be happy.
May we be healthy.
May we be free.

I see an acquaintance. I see the cashier at the corner store. I see the security guard who stands calmly outside the bank all day. I see the new neighbor.

May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be free.

I see an enemy. I see someone who has stabbed me in the back. I see people who have gossiped about me and slandered my reputation. I see difficult people, individuals with whom I have had disputes and conflicts. At first it’s impossible, but eventually I soften up and say, even to them,

May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be free.

I place my palms together and visualize the metta as a green light in my heart center. My body begins to glow with this green light, like an electric bulb.

The light then gets brighter and more powerful and spreads out from my body to cover my entire house, street, neighborhood, community, town, city, region, state, country, continent.

It extends beyond the land, permeating the oceans and continuing to shine across the whole Earth. I see that all beings and myself are one. I repeat the metta aspirations for all sentient beings:

May all beings be safe.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be healthy.
May all beings be free.

I feel grateful to be alive, to be a human, to have this opportunity to live, learn and love every day.

May we love and be patient.
May we serve and benefit others.
May we share and live in harmony.
May we be at peace and live with ease.

Do you practice metta? What aspirations do you use?

Practice Loving Kindness with Metta Aspirations

11179971_10152784915271994_8682155515547017100_nSilently repeat any or all of the following (or your own aspirations) in your mind.

May I be safe.

May I feel secure and grounded. May I feel a sense of belonging to the Earth. May I know who I am.

May I be happy.

May I be joyful. May I be content. May I live with bliss.

May I be healthy.

May my body be strong. May my mind be balanced. May I exude well-being.

May I be peaceful.

May I be calm. May I be patient. May I be loving.

May I live with ease.

May I relax. May I let go. May I just be.

May I be free.

May I be free from suffering. May I be free to be me. May I be liberated.

May you be safe, happy, healthy, peaceful and free. (Visualize a loved one and repeat each phrase to them in your mind’s eye.)

May you be safe, happy, healthy, peaceful and free. (Visualize a neutral person whom you do not have strong feelings about and repeat each phrase to that person.)

May you be safe, happy, healthy, peaceful and free. (Visualize a difficult person, someone with whom you are having a conflict, or even an “enemy,” and say the phrases to them. This one may take a while before you can actually do it!)

May we be safe, happy, healthy, peaceful and free. (Repeat the wishes, visualizing yourself together with all your loved ones.)

May we be safe, happy, healthy, peaceful and free.

Visualize yourself and your wider community.

May you be safe, happy, healthy, peaceful and free.

Visualize the light of your metta reaching out to shine upon all beings on Earth.

The remaining aspirations are wishes for all beings, including ourselves.

May all beings be safe.

May all beings be happy.

May all beings be healthy.

May all beings be peaceful.

May all beings be free.

May all beings feel strong & supported.

May all beings be loved & cared for.

May all beings breathe & relax.

May all beings go with the flow.

May all beings express our unique power.

May all beings open our hearts.

May all beings listen.

May all beings imagine.

May all beings connect with our intuition.

May all beings connect with our divine nature.

May we all love.

May we all share.

May we all serve.

May we all unite in peace and harmony.