Yogi Bhajan wanted us to dwell in gratitude. He said, “The attitude of gratitude is the highest way of living, and is the biggest truth, the highest truth. You cannot live with applied consciousness until you understand that you have to be grateful for what you have.”
I appreciate this teaching, and I am very grateful for what I have. I am grateful for my two healthy children, my hard-working husband, our close-knit extended family, our home, my practice, my yoga community, and so much more. Even so, sometimes, I forget to be grateful.
Case and point: The other day, a sewage pipe backed up in my basement. It was a disgusting and inconvenient hassle that resulted in carpet and dry wall destruction and the need for water remediation and repair work.
This was a moment in which dwelling in an attitude of gratitude was particularly challenging, or, to put it more honestly, it was a moment when I was doing quite the opposite. I was instead in the attitude of “Why me? How could this be happening? I don’t need this. Poor me.” It was an attitude of bitterness. I forgot about all the blessings.
It took me awhile to turn that attitude around, but I did. Eventually, I remembered to be grateful for my insurance. I remembered to be grateful for skilled plumbers. I remembered to be grateful that I have indoor plumbing.
Last year, I met a wonderful woman in a yoga training who gave me a ride home one day. Her old, seen-better-days car didn’t start right away. It spurted and sighed and took some coaxing. She was serene and unapologetic all the while, and when the engine finally kicked in, she said, “I’m very grateful for my car. It gets me where I need to go.” This is living the attitude of gratitude. She wasn’t embarrassed or wishing for a new car. She was grateful.
I know another amazing woman who worked for several years in Haiti at a hospital for terminally ill children. For three of the years she was there, there was no electricity. When she told me about it, I said, “That must have been so hard.” She said, “It was hard, but it was also such a joy.” This is living the attitude of gratitude.
These two women are teachers for me. I admire their commitment to seeing the blessing in every situation. Perhaps they would have responded differently than I did to my plumbing issue.
But, I’m not too hard on myself about my reaction. I know I’m not alone in feeling ungrateful for sewage. I’m realistic. I accept that staying in awareness of all of my blessings all the time is a tall order. But I can do my best. I can condition myself and my mind to remember more easily and dwell in gratitude more often. You may be wondering what this conditioning entails. Here are some ideas:
1. Count Your Blessings. Yogi Bhajan advised counting your blessings everyday as soon as you wake up and just before you go to sleep. “When you get up in the morning, and you open your eyes and you breathe consciously, if you have not thanked yet, you have lost the greatest opportunity of the right to live,” he said. “At night when you are dead tired and you do not know what to do and you have put your head on the pillow and you are gone, if you have not thanked for that day, you have lost the opportunity to enjoy the night.” I heard Gurmukh speak once about making gratitude a practice by listing, as soon as you wake up each day, everything you’re grateful for, making sure to include things we could easily take for granted, such as “I woke up to another day. I can pee. I have running water.”
2. Listen to and Chant Along With Heart-Opening Songs. Mantra music and devotional songs in English can help us tap into our heart centers and open to gratitude. For me, Wahe Guru is the mantra of gratitude. Wahe Guru means “great is the Infinite wisdom, great is the energy that brings me from darkness to light.” I feel it could also be translated as “thank you, divine inner guidance.” My favorite version of Wahe Guru is Nirinjan Kaur’s “Ether Tattva Waheguru” on her album Prem Siri. Another perfect song for accessing a deeply grateful feeling is Snatam Kaur’s Every Heartbeat on the album The Grace Within You. One of the repeated lines is “Every breath of life is ecstasy.” Can we be grateful for every breath we take?
3. Go to Sat Nam Fest. In my experience, nothing displays the bounty of Kundalini Yoga like Sat Nam Fest. Immersing yourself in the whole spectrum of powerful techniques from before sunrise to beyond sundown is pure bliss, and I don’t know anyone who takes bliss for granted. During the closing ceremony of Sat Nam Fest Berkshires last year, AYKANNA performed “I Love You, I Thank You” from their album Mantra Mala. The teachers and performers sang to all the attendees, and we sang it right back to them. We were all so grateful for the experience together!
Hope you’ll join us at Sat Nam Fest Joshua Tree this April! Wahe Guru! May you dwell in the attitude gratitude, come what may. And if you veer from the path of gratitude, may you reorient to your blessings quickly. They’re there! Sat Nam.