By Aparna Sharma January 2012 An attitude of gratitude affects miraculous healing in the mind and body, nourishes the heart and adds new depths to relationships says Aparna Sharma I recently happened to witness a guidance session between the physician-turned-energy healer Dr Rashmi Menon and Meera, a young newlywed in her 20s. A distressed Meera lamented that she was but a few months into marriage and already her husband had turned so distant and irritable that he wouldn’t even respond to the words “I love you”. Menon lovingly held her hand and said “Be thankful. At least you have someone to say that to.”The guidance sank deep into my heart. Struggling with numerous fears and insecurities caused and compounded by a rapidly changing life scenario, I had been feeling the sands slipping under my feet. All the foundations of one’s life – home, career, family, relationships – had crumbled around me. And amid this impermanence and insecurity, the words ‘at least you have someone to say that to’ touched me at the very core of my heart. I realised that even in the worst tragedies of our lives, there is a glimmer of light. No matter how acute the suffering is, deep within us we still have a self that is happy and grateful to be alive. That is what I call Fate knocking at the door, which is also what Beethoven named his Fifth Symphony. In deepest darkness, light!Small mercies In a powerful meditation called, Power of Purity, the spiritual Master Mohanji asks us to thank the smallest things in our life: “…every object that helped you to live on earth including the food you consumed so far, ‘Give thanks for the clothes that you wore, houses that sheltered you, the money that passed through your hands, your bed and all other materials that you have used.’ -Mohanji, spiritual teacher clothes that you wore, houses that sheltered you, the money that passed through your hands, your bed and all other materials that you used. All people who served you till now and will serve you in future. Even if you cannot remember them, please express your gratitude to all of them and be deeply aware that without these objects and people, life on earth would not have been possible for you.”Rabbi Harold Kushner, a well-known Jewish priest and writer, asks, “Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted – a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life is suddenly filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.”In my Buddhist group, members used to share their positive experiences brought about by prayer. A young girl, Neha, once shared that she had had more than a thousand positive experiences in her life. Then she told me how: “In the morning I make an intention to have at least five positive experiences today. I might get a rickshaw right outside my door. Or my boss may say something nice to me. Sometimes, the co-workers pool in and get samosas and we have a mini-party at office. All in all, at the end of the day, I do get my five experiences, come what may.” It filled me with wonder to see how she appreciated and thanked the Universe for the smallest bounties of life. GK Chesterton says: “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” Gratitude in religion I am yet to come across a religion, philosophy, therapy or a healing technique which doesn’t, in some way, talk about gratitude. All our religions and traditions are so profusely filled with expressions of gratitude; it is tough not to find it. Indigenous Americans chant the Iroquois prayer, thanking Mother Earth and all the elements of nature on it along with the Great Spirit in whom is embodied all goodness, and who directs all things for the good of His children.The Arabic word shukr (gratitude) is one of the most fundamental attitudes in Islam. A Muslim recognises that the Creator of the Universe is one and is responsible for everything he has in this life, including his consciousness, his health, his family, his sanity and his wealth. Therefore he is obliged to express gratitude to his Lord. Interestingly, shukr is also the opposite of kufr (disbelief). Hence, one finds the Arabic phrase Alhamdulillah (Praise to God) meaning ‘thank God’ interspersed through much of Muslim speech.A number of Hindu festivals and fasts give a ritualised context to the expression of gratitude. There are special days to express gratitude to gurus, sages, ancestors, parents, children, gods, goddesses, Mother Earth and even the elements of nature. Guru Purnima (felicitating the guru), Raksha Bandhan (celebrating the brother-sister bond), Ahoii, Karvachauth (a celebration of the husband-wife bond), and Shraadh (offering gratitude to ancestors) are a few examples of such festivals.Naikan, the Japanese method of self-reflection developed by the Jodo Shinsho Buddhist Yoshimoto Ishin is based on three questions:• What have I received from (person x)?• What have I given to (person x)?• What troubles and difficulties have I caused to (person x)?A related fourth question ‘What troubles and difficulties has (person x) caused me?’ is purposely ignored in Naikan. Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted – a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on fi nding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life is suddenly fi lled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.”. - Rabbi Harold Kushner, Jewish priest and writer Naikan presupposes that we’re all naturally good at seeing answers to this fourth question, and that excessive focus on this question is responsible for much of one’s misery in day-to-day life.The idea is to consciously give thanks for the abundance that exists in our life and even for the challenges we face, for they bring out the grit, the spirit and the potential we didn’t even know existed within us.The German theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart says, “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you’ that would suffice.”So what makes gratitude such a potent practice? Why is it recommended so prominently in all wisdom traditions? Gratitude is a powerful leveler of the ego. The overweening ego which is always focused on aggrandising its own achievements, qualities and personality is forced to look outside itself and acknowledge the role of others in its life. Gratitude helps us recognise that we are not the be-all and end-all of our lives. Countless forces have contributed to our existence without who we would have perished. The more we practice gratitude therefore, the more humble and open we become. Gratitude particularly compels us to acknowledge the role of the Creator in our lives and in that respect we become more and more connected with Source. Gratitude as medicine Books like The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude point toward new research that highlights the power of gratitude to heal. In fact, modern healing modalities like reiki, pranic healing, and Ci Plus (founded by Maa Gyan Suveera), angel therapy, theta healing and serenity through surrender cultivate an attitude of gratitude or thankfulness at the very beginning of the therapy. ‘Just for today, be grateful’ is one of the five reiki principles Dr Usui asks us to practice each day. According to Grand Master Choa Kok Sui, the founder of pranic healing ‘That which you focus your attention on will tend to appear’. Gratitude, in other words, is the cornerstone of any intention or prayer.It helps to maintain a gratitude journal, which lists the positives in our life on a daily basis. From the biggest to the smallest events, thoughts and acts that generate a feeling of appreciation in you even for a moment. Sarah Ban Breathnach, the author of Simple Abundance, says that on some days her list is filled with amazing things. Most days, just simple joys: “Mikey got lost in a fierce storm, but I found him shivering, wet but unharmed. I listened to Puccini while cleaning and remembered how much I love opera. Other days – rough ones – I might think that I don’t have five things to be grateful for, so I’ll write down my basics: my health, my husband and daughter, their health, my animals, my home, my friends, and the comfortable bed that I’m about to get into, as well as the fact that the day’s over.” Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California at Davis, discovered that keeping a gratitude journal changes people’s lives. “Ten years ago I tried to acclaim gratitude as scientific research,” says Emmons. His research consisted of randomly assigned, placebo and controlled experimental trials, with 1,000 participants ranging in age from eight to 80. During the experiment, Emmons split up the subjects into three groups and had one group count five blessings per day, one group count five burdens per day and one group just write about neutral events. The research discovered that the group that kept the gratitude journal were more optimistic about the future, reported fewer health problems, had more physical energy, exercised an-hour-and-a-half more a week, slept more, were less lonely, more enthused and felt better overall. Natural News.com lists the power of gratitude among the many innovative methods that help protect people from threats to their health while acti
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