It's so easy in our terminally busy lives to take the miracles that surround us for granted....
We worry about our future; will I have enough money, time, love?
We get caught up in fear, doubt and anxiety; and we rush around missing the life that is disappearing in the wake of our motion.
Shamans always begin and end all ceremonies and every day with expressing gratitude for the ancestors, the elements, the directions, all the nature beings and the life they have been given.
What we hold in lack increases, just as what we are grateful for grows.
To truly experience and express gratitude is to interrupt what Martin Heidegger called the tranquilized obviousness of our everyday living.
We begin by challenging our complacency with the unexamined, everyday interpretations of life and bringing an element of surprise and wonderment to our moment-to-moment meeting with our inner and outer worlds.
Surprise, wonder and awe are the foundations of gratefulness.
These qualities disrupt our assumptions and deconstruct our expectations, challenging all we take for granted: that the sun will rise today, that we can flip a switch and lights come on, that cold and hot water are available at the turning of a tap, that I can be in San Francisco this morning and London tonight.
To make gratefulness a basic attitude towards life is about waking up to the miracle of life itself and recognizing that we can find a gift in everything that comes to us.
That is not to say that there are not difficult challenges, hardships and horrible circumstances that will happen to us that we would rather avoid. We are not grateful for war, violence, lies, manipulation, crime and the losses of the lives of our loved ones.
But, in the face of even the harshest of times we can find beauty, connection, heart and meaning.
Many people who develop terminal diseases or life threatening illnesses will tell you that it was a turning point in their lives, an awakening that taught them what was truly important, real and of value. Often they will share with you that their cancer or whatever terrifying thing they faced was the greatest gift they ever received.
When we recognize that there is a gift available in everything in our lives, we are acknowledging a certain dependency on the giver. The very nature of the idea of dependency disrupts our sense of pride, independence and individuality, the same things that keep us living in the illusion of separation.
Gratefulness connotes an obligation or reciprocal connectedness to the giver. Gratefulness always takes us beyond our selves.
Self-sufficiency is self-deception. Our true self is not the little individual self struggling to define its identity against all other selves. In the communion of a grateful exchange we go beyond the illusion of separateness and discover our universal self.
When we acknowledge the gifts we have been given it creates a bond between the giver and ourselves. In this manner we move towards oneness or wholeness, recognizing our interconnectedness with the web of life.
The giver may be you, another or a spirit in the unseen world.
Shamans acknowledge and express gratitude for the Spirit of all things in the universe as an ongoing daily practice.
The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving. Giving thanks is a gift of the heart and calls for authenticity, vulnerability and recognition of the sacredness of life.
Being grateful brings peace to our day and quiets the mind. To express our gratitude brings us into the present moment. Expressing gratitude to another makes them feel seen, honored and appreciated. It makes them happy and this in turn can fill us with joyfulness.
It also alters the future by giving us a brighter outlook on what is ahead. Grateful people seem to have charmed lives that flow with whatever arises.
There is a gratitude revolution emerging on this planet. All beings want to be happy. People are recognizing that it is not what we have that makes us happy, but what we are grateful for that brings happiness.
Grateful people are happy, connected, and less fearful people.
To cultivate a practice of living gratefully we first need to take the time to stop and be still. When we stop rushing we develop a spacious awareness and become more patient, tolerant, respectful and compassionate towards ourselves and others.
We open our eyes to the beauty that surrounds us and have a more joyful life. Our senses come alive and we see new possibilities and opportunities that we could not see in our frenetic state of busyness.
Gratitude & Blessing Practices
Exercise #1: Daily Gratitude Practice
Each day in your journal, write down an area or category of thing that you will express gratitude for whenever you encounter it throughout your day. It could be an element (earth, air, fire, water) or a color (green, blue, red, yellow) or a thing (electricity, air conditioning, trees). It doesn’t matter what it is. Every time you encounter this element, color or thing during your day stop, take a breath and say "Thank you"! You will be astonished how it changes your day. Thank you is the shortest and most powerful prayer on the planet.
Exercise #2: Daily Blessing Practice
Take a walk as you silently bless everyone and everything you encounter. Widen your perception as you engage in this walking meditation. Bless the flowers, trees, lakes, birds, animals, sky, clouds, wind, sun, moon… whatever you encounter on your walk, all the beauty, people and animals. Include the thoughts, feelings and sensations you feel. Know we are blessed by what we bless. This exercise has the power to shift your attitude to one of gratitude and deepen your connection to the Divine. It is a way of saying YES to life.
Poem by e.e. Cummings
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
PS - If you enjoyed the insights I shared with you here, I hope you'll download my free, hour-long recording on ShapeShifting into a New Narrative, where you'll discover ways to rescript your life using the spiritual depth of shamanic practices and the psychological power of modern coaching.
Gratitude excerpts from Living a Shamanic Way of Life: A Path of Direct Revelation, Copyright © 2015 by Michael Stone, Grass Valley, California, U.S.A.