It’s not just about being happy. Sometimes we’re up and sometimes we’re down. Let’s face it. There is suffering in life. We lose our loved ones, relationships end, we are wealthy one day and later we are in dire need. The scenarios are different for all of us. We all have pain and sorrow in our lives along with the many joys and pleasures. No one’s life is perfect. Feel your sorrows, shed your tears and release the pain.
And know that as Buddha says, there is a path out.
Cultivating a gratitude practice can lead the way out of suffering.
Follow these five steps to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
- Be present, stop, find stillness, be aware of yourself and your surroundings.
- Make it a habit to see with an open heart and mind. Recognize and enjoy small pleasures.
- Feel this pleasure. Notice where it resides in your body. Stay with it and hold the feeling, the awareness, the sensation. Hold this experience in body, mind & heart. Let it soothe your soul.
- Smile back in gratitude. Say thank you. Express your gratitude.
- Share the gratefulness, pass on a smile, let others know that you appreciate them. Thank nature for your life and breath.
Find a comfortable place in nature to sit or stand. Take a moment to connect to the earth and feel the support beneath you. Let your awareness be with the space around you, the air and the expansive sky. Breathe in the fresh air. Be present. Using all your senses, allow your awareness to focus on something in your environment: the flow of the river, the birds in migration, the sunlight glistening, whatever draws your attention. Let your attention rest in contemplation for 5-20 minutes.
What reflections or revelations do you have?
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the Spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and Spring after the Winter.”
All sentient beings need love! Lily was one of these beautiful beings.
We met her in Esperanza on Vieques Island in Puerto Rico before the devastating hurricane Maria savagely swept the island later that year. Vieques is the land of remote beaches, great snorkeling spots, Mosquito Bay, a bioluminescent bay with dinoflagellates aka (dinos) that burst into a brilliant shiny blue light with any agitation of the water, an amazing 350 year old ceiba tree, roosters rising early and debris of weapons from the US Navy testing bomb range.
A couple thousand horses roam the island freely and seem to survive on their own, although some are branded, owned and left to fend for themselves. The horses will come right into your yard but typically are not interested in interacting with people. If you leave food for them they don’t bother with it and if you approach they walk away. They coexist but take care of themselves. However water can be scarce and the owners of the house we rented kept an old bath tub outside in the back yard filled with water for the horses to come and drink.
We first noticed the white horse feeding in the field and saw her limp as she moved. One day she tentatively came to drink at the tub and was quickly nipped by another mare. Lily showed signs of scarring and abuse from other horses, a previous owner or perhaps both. We watched her for days and came to call her Lily. She tried to fit in with the other horses in the field, to get along and clearly wanted to be a part of the herd. I asked a local woman why they were shunning and mean to her, and she said that Lily was new to the field. Our hearts were filled with compassion as we watched her limping and surviving day to day.
One night my husband and I sat and practiced Lovingkindness for Lily for over an hour. I also spent time sending healing love through an energy practice called Attunement. The next day we woke, had breakfast and went off to a beach. Upon return I stepped out of the car and my husband went towards the house. Lily strode up the hill from the back yard and gently placed her face within inches of mine and stayed for a moment before proceeding over to my husband and sweetly standing with her face close to his. We were astonished. Lily knew we were present with her the night before and sending her love and compassion.
I don’t know if Lily made it through the hurricane Maria. I wouldn’t expect she could have but I think of her often and the thanks that she gave to us for sharing our love. I hope that one day we will return and by a miracle see Lily again. If Lily has passed I wish her the most beautiful afterlife or rebirth possible.
In loving memory of Lily,
I don’t know about you, but I definitely have a crazy monkey mind (just ask my husband), and my energy doesn’t like to sit still (my friends will attest to this). Yet, I have learned that holding awareness in my very heart of being, creating stillness, and resting inside myself are the keys to my creativity, appreciation and joy for life.
This is a great time of year for those of us in the North to draw inward, embrace the light and dark in our lives and to do the practices of inquiry, self reflection and self care.
The beauty of nature provides me with encouragement and support for my daily practice. This sunset at my favorite park gifted me with silence, and the ability to be still and feel a vast sense of ease and peace. I have been sitting with this poem this season… hope it will inspire you to take some time for you!
Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.
– Martha Postlewaite
What are you grateful for in this moment?
What brings you joy?
What gift is life giving you?
Notice what arises.
Feel this, hold it in your awareness, savor it.
Let it fill your senses.
What do you notice?
warmth, tingling, happiness, gratitude ……
Enjoy and savor this.
Stay with it for at least 20 seconds, maybe several minutes.
Build the gratitude network in your brain.