Krishna Bhatta is an author, surgeon, and inventor, currently practicing as chief of urology at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center. Dr. Bhatta takes joy in sharing what he has learned and earnestly hopes to further the spiritual discoveries of generations to come. He dreams of a world where eastern wisdom and western discoveries embrace each other to make the world a better place.
Ungratefulness may not be one of the seven deadly sins, but it is certainly a missed opportunity. While I define gratitude as a song of the heart that is full of peace, positivity and happiness, the listener may misconstrue the lyrics, or get them wrong altogether. Let me briefly explain.
First and foremost, gratitude is not as simple as saying, “thank you.” Indeed, it is not something that we can or should practice at all, because true gratitude is released from the heart—not confabulated by the mind. The heart can be a foreign concept to Westerners, who are used to living in their head 100 percent of the time. Yes, intellect is a wonderful thing, but being in one’s head too much is not.
We can become so easily frustrated trying to find joy and happiness in our head, when we should be looking into our heart. We try to create gratitude with positive thoughts or mantras, but this is something that must exist within us already; something that is released or expressed, rather than manufactured. If you lose the connection to your heart — to your inner self — you simply cannot practice gratitude.
But how do we get there? Where does the journey to gratitude begin?
First, set aside the concept of a destination and focus on the journey itself. You will find that it is composed of both an individual and a collective component. These are reflexive, meaning that they influence one another, just as our outer selves influence our inner beings and vice-versa. For example, the culture in which we grow up sets our initial course, but the inner self will always need to return to center. Wherever we are, we carry our heart — our inner flame — with us. It must be cultivated or we will become joyless, frustrated, and angry.
Many of us understand this instinctively, especially in less-industrialized places. We might pray, or meditate, or go on a long walk in a quiet forest to get in touch with ourselves. My practice is intermittent silence, which essentially means finding periods of silence throughout the day, no matter where I am and no matter what is going on around me—however noisy or urgent.
“What do I think about during such periods,” you may ask? I don’t. Instead, I imagine the Himalayas or another such beautiful place. I conjure a flowing stream and a table to hold my thoughts while I connect to my heart, which is where gratitude resides, like a gift waiting to be opened again and again. I let go of my ego.
Yogis call our inner sources of energy chakras. These are the places in the body where emotional connections occur. If we never get out of our heads, our emotions can become stunted. Because everything that has happened to us externally lives internally in our hearts, we must reconnect with it and release it from time to time. This requires little effort. After all, how can we not be grateful for all that we have experienced and all that we are now?
Maybe this seems a little naive, like the old television character Pollyanna playing the “glad game,” but we are not trying to will good vibes into existence. Nor are we denying that external forces often open the door to negative emotions like worry, sadness, and jealousy. In this day and age, our mind is assaulted with horrific images and provocations on an hourly basis, if not even more frequently.
The point is that we must learn to manage our negative emotions in the context of being grateful for life’s ultimate gifts—our internal and eternal freedom, our hearts, and, yes, even our minds. So, take a moment right now to close your eyes. Relax. Breathe in and out. Become aware of your inner flame, and let the gratitude arise for all that has come your way.
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