By Leena Patel
July 31, 2017: Every day I walk into Caesars Palace Colosseum in Las Vegas, where I teach yoga and meditation to the cast of Celine Dion?s show ?A New Day…? Each day I encounter slot machines whirring, the roaring at card tables, the noise, the glitz, the glamour, the excitement, the hope of winning, and the stark reality of losing. Emotions are fast changing here. It seems that people visit this city to escape from their seemingly unglamorous, uneventful lives. They come here to dream. They come to fulfill their fantasy? whether it be winning the jackpot, getting married or being swept away by the whirlwind of entertainment in the city that never sleeps.
Need for more, bigger, better…
Everyday I get the same message: what we have is not enough. We must have More. More money. More fame. More rock n roll. We must be Better. Have a Better job. A Better pair of shoes. A Better body. We must have Bigger. A Bigger house. A Bigger car. A Bigger pay cheque. As the end of the year fast approaches, let us take stock of what is truly important and acknowledge the gifts that we already have in our lives. Are you a victim of the sense of lack? Paradoxically, once we express deep-felt gratitude, our life blooms open and abundance pours forth. Coming from a mindset that what you have is not enough, you will always feel a sense of lack. If you are a multi-millionaire and are disconnected with gratitude, you will be unsatisfied. If you are an aspiring yoga enthusiast disconnected with gratitude, being able to perform that challenging asana that you have been working on for days or weeks or months will bring a fleeting joy because as soon as you have accomplished the pose, you will already be on the lookout for the next challenging one. And in doing so, you have completely missed the point.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. As Melody Beattie said ?It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates vision for tomorrow.?
Here are three gratitude practices to cultivate in your yoga and meditation practice and in your daily life.
1) Gratitude through meditation
One of the simplest ways we can honour our life is by being fully present in everything we do. We can do this by bringing our attention to the breath. Become aware of the rhythm and flow of your breath. As you inhale, do so with the feeling that you are drawing life force or prana into your body. This prana nourishes you, energises you. Feel the oxygen entering and filling your lungs and expanding your inner body? strengthening it, healing it. Breathe with gratitude.
As you exhale, allow your outer body to soften and let go of all tension. Release everything that you are holding on to?whether it be physical tension or past emotional pain or any other belief or thought pattern that is no longer useful or beneficial to your current health and wellbeing. Let it all go. Be thankful that you are here now?breathing. Mindful breathing nourishes you. Just the fact that you are able to take a breath in and out means that you are alive. Therefore, let each breath that you take be a celebration of the life within you?accept it as a gift that it truly is. Let every inhale and every exhale bring your attention inwards and anchor you more deeply in the present.
Gratitude practice on the mat
How many times have you worked on a specific asana for days or weeks or months, ?achieved? your goal and then experienced no more than a fleeting moment of joy before you set your sight on the next physical challenge? We miss the delight of the journey when we are so focused on getting our body into that picture perfect pose.
If you are close but not quite there?be happy that you are close. Be present to the event that is now taking place. What does this moment have to offer you?
At the beginning and/or end of your practice, take a moment to join your palms together at the heart in anjali mudra. The Sanskrit word anjali means offering and the word mudra means seal, so in this sacred hand position we are sealing our offering to a higher being or universal energy. Take time in this pose to express gratitude to yourself for who you are. Embrace and salute the highest part of yourself?your innate goodness, your divine nature. Invite your inner radiance to shine out in all directions.
Gratitude practice in daily life
If it feels appropriate, close your eyes. Now think about what you are grateful for. Feeeel it. Notice not only the object, the person or the event that arises for you, but also how it makes you feel within. Mentally thank all the people in your life, near and far, seen and un-seen, for the gifts they have bestowed upon you and the awareness they have brought to you. If we remember that relationships are here to make us conscious rather than happy, we will be able to express our thanks with more ease for those people for whom we still harbor ill-will, as well as those who are near and dear to us. Since our lives are mystically intertwined and deeply connected, all beings to a greater or lesser degree have helped shape the person that we are today. If there is someone in your life to whom you need to express your thanks to, take the time to do so with an open heart. This spirit of giving will come back to you in infinite ways and fill your life with immeasurable joy. When you connect with thankfulness, you create a spaciousness in your heart for abundance to enter. You attract more goodness, more positive energy, more love, more wealth. Whatever you are grateful for, you will naturally begin to express your appreciation for. What you express your appreciation for, you will draw more of into your life.
We have so many reasons to be thankful. I personally feel grateful that I am able to practice yoga and meditation and share my teachings with so many people. I am healthy. I am deeply appreciative of my family and the people whom I am surrounded by.
Let us, together, in our daily practice make a commitment to express gratitude to ourselves in recognition of our own greatness. Let us give thanks to others for opening up our awareness and making our lives more beautiful. And let us be thankful for all the gifts that we have in our lives? not only at significant times in the year such as Thanksgiving or Christmas?but on each and every day throughout the year.
Leena Patel teaches yoga and meditation in Las Vegas. She has travelled in the US, Canada and Western Europe as personal yoga teacher to Celine Dion. She can be reached at www.leenapatel.net.