Message Boards Message Boards

Morality and Daily Life

Cultivating Gratitude

Toggle
Cultivating Gratitude
Answer
3/25/14 11:41 AM
I do not have much time for meditation, and when I do, I am often interrupted by any number of things. This used to really, really tick me off. But lately, I have been thinking about gratitude, and how it applies to practice, and it really has helped.

I was reading some of the mythology behind Buddhism a few weeks ago and was struck how it is considered rare to be born as a human being, and rarer still to be born as a human being in a world-system and aeon where the dharma is known. This is often used as a motivation for practice.

On a more personal note, a few days later, I was in the emergency department with my wife (she was having a nasty migraine), and I decided to pass the time by meditating. I closed my eyes and tried to focus on the breath but the waiting room was too distracting. When I opened my eyes, I saw an elderly woman with oxygen tubing, sitting in a wheelchair, staring off into space. She certainly was in no position to practice meditation. I realized that I shouldn't be frustrated about poor meditation conditions because I should be grateful that I can meditate at all.

So, I made up a little mantra, or prayer, or whatever that I mentally recite after I sit on the cushion:

I am grateful to live in a time and place where the dharma is known. I am grateful for communication technology that allows the dharma to be easily accessible to me. I am grateful to have a healthy mind with which I can understand the dharma. I am grateful for this opportunity to practice the dharma. May I use this time wisely for the benefit of all beings.

It helps, a lot. And, I hesitate a bit to say this, but it seems like my actual, physical practice conditions have improved after incorporating this mantra. Less interruptions, more silence. Interesting...

I hope this is of benefit to someone.

E

RE: Cultivating Gratitude
Answer
3/26/14 2:46 AM as a reply to Eric M W.
I hear you.

I frequently recite for myself boddhisattva's vows and Shantideva's prayers, though sometimes I connect emotionally more with some more spontaneous grateful or compassionate thoughts in my head, or instead feel the need to listen to inspiring music. I find it easiest to be grateful for the very basic things, such as having shelter from the elements and food to eat. But maybe that's because I'm somatically oriented, and/or because I'm not yet far on my path.

Regardless, I've noticed that when cultivating gratitude or compassion, my feelings are much intensified by, after each sentence or stanza, pausing for a moment and bowing deeply. Even just two minutes of such practice makes a noticeable difference in how I relate to the world for several hours afterwards, maybe even the whole day. I vaguely recall there being or having been some dharma teachers for whom bowing is even the central method for awakening.