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The Practice of Gratitude

Posted by on 16 October 2013 in ...through MomColoredGlasses, Mom Perspectives | 0 comments

A couple of nights ago, I ended up in a hot yoga studio for the first time in over a year. The smell, the dry heat, the feeling of my yoga mat under my feet all felt familiar, almost comforting as I sat cross-legged waiting for our first posture. I smiled as she told us to take child’s pose, stretching forward and grounding my forehead on my mat. This was going to be just like old times, I thought.

Boy, was I wrong. A half an hour and about ten “up dog-down dog-warrior 1 -warrior 2-reverse warrior-chaturanga” sequences into the practice I felt every muscle in my body shouting with outrage. My body didn’t want to bend or twist the way it did in the past, and I knew that I was going to be feeling the workout for days. But the instructor kept reminding us to focus on our Ujjayi breath, the deep, audible breath that keeps you present as we transitioned between asanas (postures).
It’s a practice, she belted out from the back corner of the room. You pick it up and do the work and put it down and then you do it all over again. Each practice is unique – each practice teaches you something different – each practice builds on the last. But when your practice has become rusty, that ability to stay present diminishes and the distractions of your shaky muscles and the to-do lists crowding into the corners of your mind try to push out the single-mindedness of the here and now.

My practice was as rusted out as the Tin Man’s jaw joints. I felt it keenly, both in the moment and over the last few days, hobbling around with a stiff back and aching arms. But I keep going back to the mental part of the practice and the focus on breath, whooshing in and out with each movement. It is that breath that spread energy into my shaking leg muscles as I pushed deeper into each lunge, that breath that kept my heart from pounding uncontrollably.

That breath was my lifeline, and as I look at other “lifelines” that have grown a bit rusty lately, my practice of gratitude comes to mind. In the past, I have purposefully focused on gratitude, with the intent of “counting my gifts”. I made it a distinct part of my weekly routine to document what God has given me, both the massive and the mundane, so that I would remember to pay attention instead of letting my blessings slide by without appreciating them. Nothing was exempt, from afternoon naps to Saturday donuts and leisurely walks around the cul-de-sac. Always counting…counting…

…but somewhere along the way, my practice of gratitude slowed to a trickle. I lost the muscle memory of always to look for the gift, and saw opportunities to complain instead. I thanked God daily for His provision and strength, both important things, but found less time to celebrate the simple gifts. I failed to give it my attention, and in so doing, my gratitude rusted over, becoming creaky and dull. I stopped seeing the gifts in every sunrise, in every giggle, in every quiet moment, and even in the struggle.

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Daily gratitude is part of the breath that brings life to my faith. It is the breath that gives me perspective when I am facing a difficult day. It is the breath that clears the cobwebs of discontentment from my sight. It is the breath that shows me the good in the world when all I can see is the corrupt. It is the practice of thankfulness…in all things.

Just like with the practice of yoga, gratitude isn’t something you do once and then walk away. Every day, we must look for the gifts that surround us, and speak them out loud, shout them from the rooftops and whisper them in the ear of the person next to you. We practice gratitude and in doing so, our world turns from rusty brown to a shimmering shade of gold.

Look for the gift today…and give thanks.

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