How to Practice Gratitude Meditation for Unsettling Times
Do you have a gratitude practice? When I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area more than 20 years ago, I kept hearing people talking about gratitude journals, and I was intrigued. Someone told me that all you needed to do was write down 15 things you were grateful for each night before you went to bed. It seemed simple enough to me, so I tried it for a week. That was about all the gratitude I could muster, using that system.
I recently read in a post on the biochemical basis for practicing gratitude that even just looking for things to be grateful for is very beneficial. In his book, The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time, neuroscientist Alex Korb writes:
“It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence.”
So maybe that week wasn’t wasted. Over the years since my week of gratitude journaling, I came back to the concept of gratitude many times, with more success, and eventually, the concept of a gratitude meditation came to light for me.
I recently discovered that author and meditation teacher Jack Kornfield has a meditation on gratitude and joy, in which he starts with the macro or meta-view, then gradually makes his way to the more specific. The trajectory of the more specific part is quite similar to lovingkindness meditation in that the focus starts with self, moves on to loved ones, and finishes with others, or even a person with whom you have difficulty. Lovingkindness meditation lays a strong foundation for getting started if gratitude meditation is a new concept for you.
How to Practice Gratitude Meditation
It’s been an unsettling month here in the United States. Perhaps pausing for a moment of meditation on gratitude could help us all to feel a bit more unified as we move forward. Here is the gratitude section of Jack Kornfield’s meditation, which you could practice on its own:
With gratitude, I remember the people, animals, plants, insects, creatures of the sky and sea, air and water, fire and earth, all whose joyful exertion blesses my life every day.
With gratitude, I remember the care and labor of a thousand generations of elders and ancestors who came before me.
I offer my gratitude for the blessing of this earth I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the measure of health I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the family and friends I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the community I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the teachings and lessons I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the life I have been given.