Meditating on Gratitude and Enquiry

Meditation, Awakening HallDuring the morning meetings at New Life, we meditate together, all forty or fifty of us. The sessions are only brief, lasting around 15 minutes. It’s an important way for us to start the day with mindfulness and compassion for ourselves and for one another. The practice is especially powerful because the whole community is sitting together as one.

Last week, we practiced with a classic Korean Zen technique that uses questioning as the starting point for meditative enquiry. As we sat and breathed deeply in the morning light filtering through the awakening hall, we asked ourselves, “What is this?”

The question mark itself is the most important part of the enquiry. In other words, the point is not to answer the question intellectually, but to be fully present in the moment and to reflect on our experience in that moment. This in turn cultivates a sense of openness, flexibility, and space.

This week, we’re meditating on gratitude. Practiced regularly, cultivating gratitude allows us to focus on the positive elements in our lives, instead of ruminating on the negative things that cause stress and anxiety. We learn to pay attention to the blessings in our lives which we may not normally notice. It’s a powerful tool for creating joy in our lives, no matter what our respective situations. There are many ways to practice gratitude, such as making a list of things we are grateful for every day, or reaching out to someone we appreciate with a hug, phone call, or letter.

For further reading, check out ‘Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make Us Happier’, by Robert Emmons, a professor who conducts research in positive psychology at UC Davis. Also worth viewing is the famous TED Talk by monk and interfaith scholar Brother David Steindl-Rast on gratitude in which he elegantly suggests, ‘Want to be happy? Be grateful’.

-SV

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