Mumbo Jumbo News - Issue 5 - April 2020
Hi guys. In this April blog (Issue 5), I would like to contemplate the subject of ‘gratitude’. The formal meaning of gratitude is, thankfulness, or gratefulness, from the Latin word gratus (‘pleasing, thankful’). And is a feeling of appreciation/contentment felt by and/or similar positive responses shown by the recipient of kindness, gifts, help, favours, or other types of generosity, towards the giver of such things.
It is also perceived when appreciating nature, the positive aspects of humanity and life itself. And can also be expressed as a spiritual feeling of ‘oneness’ (i.e. we are all the one manifestation of consciousness).
As in my previous blogs, I will draw on the views/opinions of past and current masters/sages/mystics/gurus/philosophers and generally wise people. These blogs are designed to only give you a ‘taste’ of the information, knowledge and wisdom that is out there.
A lot has been written about the importance of gratitude and there are a multitude of books on the subject. Generally, gratitude is a positive feeling or indeed an emotion and certainly a practice that needs to be strengthened.
For instance, in some of our Yoga classes (if you practice), towards the end of a session, we find teachers asking us to think of 3 things that we are grateful for today. My first response is always to the yoga session itself. The opportunity to do the session and to receive the benefits from it (social, physical and spiritual) is something I don’t take for granted.
It is also an important aspect of being appreciative of others or positive circumstances that can take you to this good feeling.
Gratitude is good for our bodies. Deepak Chopra (Physician, Indian/US author of spiritual/mindfulness books) advises that; gratitude invokes a physical response triggering our para-sympathetic system (i.e. ‘rest and digest’ response - opposite to the ‘flight or fight’ response) which, in turn brings about homeostasis (i.e. the ability to maintain a relatively stable internal physiological state that persists despite changes in the world outside) and reduces any inflammation. He advises that, having this awareness of a shifting sensation triggers joyful loving moments and actually brings healing to the body.
In developing a gratitude practice, we can block negative emotions and consciously dwell in the good feeling for longer.
In a very interesting article, Dr Matt Johnson PH. D (Professor, Writer – Mind Brain Value – Psychology Today) suggests that, as consumers in this age, we are constantly bombarded with advertisements that trigger FOMO (‘fear of missing out’) or urging us to desire something other than we currently have. He says that, this is not a great recipe for gratitude to survive in. And; “……. that taking things for granted is very literally how our attention is wired”.
He goes on to say; “The science supports what we’ve been told from a young age: “Be grateful for what you have. Sage advice. But in practice, this is often easier said than done”.
In conclusion he says, “There are many worthwhile practices for fostering gratitude, but there are likely no silver bullets. Similar to approaching our other shortcomings, a deeper understanding of our own minds is vital”.
He indicated that the neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks knew more about the workings of the human mind that most who, in turn, wrote; …… “I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and travelled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure”. (Sacks - 2015 - Gratitude. NY: Random House)
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are an ancient Indian classical text consisting of an important collection of Sanskrit sutras (aphorisms) on the theory and practice of yoga (i.e. consisting of an 8 limbed path with only one of those paths relating to posture, asana, in order to prepare for meditation). NB: the modern physical practice of Yoga is based on these asanas and the philosophy as a substratum.
Gratitude (contentment) is mentioned in Sutra 2.42 which indicates that; “As the result of contentment (Santosha) one gains supreme happiness”.
Yoga in this context is a philosophy and a process of the way we engage with the world to create harmony and inner freedom. I.e. as a philosophy, Yoga examines the human spirit’s relationship to the material world and how one might be freed from suffering through discipline and introspection to ultimately achieve self-realisation.
As an aside, the Sanskrit word Yoga implies ‘union’, ‘to unite’, ‘to yoke’ – that is, the union of the lower with the higher consciousness.
Santosha simply means accepting and appreciating what we have and what we already are, not craving things and essentially moving forwards from there in understanding the higher Self.
The Yoga Sutras were compiled prior to 400 CE by the sage Patanjali in India who compiled and organized knowledge/wisdom about yoga from much older traditions.
What about the current COVID -19 virus crisis and gratitude? One of the major things we are seeing is the gratitude expressed for the community approach in this crisis (not withstanding some selfishness). Expressions of humanity not only to family and friends but to neighbours and strangers is generally what we are seeing at this time. Creative gratitude to frontline health staff and to emergency and essential services staff is heartening. Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have at the moment. A community approach of ‘attitude to gratitude’ will get us through all this.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” —Oprah Winfrey (US TV host, philanthropist, host of Super Soul Sundays)
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realise they were the big things.”— Robert Brault (US Author)
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” – Mahatma Gandhi (Indian Spiritual Leader, inspired non-violent resistance in struggle for Indian Independence)
“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” — Charles Dickens (Prominent English writer, novelist during the Victorian era).
“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.” ― Seneca (Roman Stoic Philosopher, 1st century BCE)
"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” And; …. “To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude”. - Albert Schweitzer (French polymath, philosopher, Nobel Peace Prize recipient 1952)
All this illustrates how we should just accept and enjoy the present moment (i.e. the past is history, the future is a mystery) and go with the flow of the present. If something good, bad or ugly happens accept everything as part of life’s journey.
But when the good happens either through happenstance, circumstance or your own devices – dwell in it and practice gratitude – it will block any negative mindset!
As stated, gratitude is good for the body – steer away from any negative default. Develop a gratitude practice!
Stay home and contemplate this post!
Compiled by Baz Shirley – contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
*see also: bazabstractart.redbubble.com
& Instagram @bazabstractart and all my posts on mumbojumbonews.com