In every meditation practice, I ask the 4 soul questions I was taught in primordial sound meditation at the Chopra Center. We covered the first three question in previous articles.
The fourth question is What Am I Grateful For?
At first, one might think finding gratitude is a simple task. For me however, it was quite challenging when I started my meditation practice more than two years ago. Every time I came to the fourth soul question, “what am I grateful for?” my mind would take me to all the negative experiences in my life. Then one morning, the thought occurred to me: I just had a tooth extraction and I no longer had a nagging toothache. My reaction was one of gratitude that the pain was gone. That one thought gave me a process which I now use to practice gratitude. I think about past surgeries, horrible cancer treatments that I endured, severe back pain, and other physical ailments that no longer affect me. That process allows me to feel very grateful.
Practicing gratitude is incredibly valuable in many ways. Robert Emmons is regarded as the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude with his book, Thanks! How the new science of gratitude can make you happier. He studied more than 1,000 people that practiced gratitude for three weeks. They reported a host of physical benefits such as stronger immune systems, less aches and pains, lower blood pressure, increased desire to exercise, and improved sleep. They also experienced psychological benefits such as higher levels of positive emotions, more alertness, more joy and pleasure, more optimism, and happiness. It seems that gratitude pauses our built-in negative bias. Another study in 2008 by psychologist Alex Wood in the Journal of Research and Personality, demonstrated that showing gratitude can reduce the frequency and duration of episodes of depression.
I am finding that I am grateful for the relationships in my life, both past and present. I am grateful for the support of my family, friends, past business mentors, and the wonderful community I live in.
Another way of discovering gratitude is remembering opportunities that have been given to us, whether we think we deserve them or not. We can be grateful for the skills that we possess and the knowledge we have discovered. Our practice can include gratitude for the world around us: the trees, plants, flowers, wildlife, changing seasons, or even the sight of your dog greeting at the door. Having an opportunity to help someone in need, putting a smile on someone’s face, or sharing a kind word or complement will all help us feel gratitude in knowing that we made a difference in someone’s life.
A great way to practice gratitude is to try journaling. Every day, jot down a couple of things you are grateful for. When you find yourself in a negative mood, open the journal and remember all you have to be grateful for. According to Robert Emmons, journaling is an excellent way to becoming a truly grateful person. He believes this practice works because it consciously focuses our attention on developing more grateful thinking and helps eliminate ungrateful thoughts.
Now in my daily meditation practice, when I come to the fourth sole question “what am I grateful for?” I must be mindful of the time because my list is so long.
In our meditation practice, the third soul question is "What Is My Purpose?"
Growth and replication have been the purpose of nearly every molecule in existence since the Big Bang. The universe has grown at an astonishing rate, replicating solar systems and entire galaxies. On planet Earth, we see millions of species replicate and grow continuously. Like all other creatures, we humans have been performing our most urgent duty of reproducing for 200,000 years. Somewhere during our evolution, we have developed the unique ability to create stories, setting us far apart from all other creatures.
We have this ability to create stories about who we are and live according to those stories. We pass stories down through generations, allowing those that come after us to learn and grow. As a species, we don't just want to expand in numbers, but also expand our abilities to adapt and live more comfortably with each generation.
Our most basic purpose is to reproduce, but as we grow older and our reproductive instincts diminish, we may find ourselves asking "what is my purpose?" This usually happens when our children grow and leave home.
What we think our purpose should be does not always align with the story that we have been told. The story about how we should live our life has gotten in the way of who we really are. The story has conditioned us to conform with the social norm, which is not necessarily what our basic instincts tell us.
Through my meditation practice I have discovered that I am not a human being having a spiritual experience I am a spiritual being having a human experience. Our spirit has taken on a physical form to fulfill a purpose.
Each and every one of us has a unique special skill or talent that we can share with others. We may just plant a seed of an idea in someone, perhaps in the form of advice or a creative idea. That someone may pass that idea onto their children and they in turn may pass that idea down to their children who may use that idea to change the world. Remember, someone first had to teach Einstein that 2+2 = 4; that person was likely not a genius, but they did spark the genius in Einstein. Someone had to first teach Beethoven the piano scales when he was three years old; they didn’t have the talent Beethoven had, but sparked the genius or passion in that great piano player. Growing up, my father said to me “you made your bed now sleep in it." That simple statement has stuck with me and has caused me to take responsibility of the decisions that I make throughout my life.
Our purpose, therefore, is not only to physically reproduce, but to use our unique talents to make the world a better place for all mankind, present and future.
Lifelong entrepreneur and resident of the 1000 islands. Started his meditation practice in 2018.
15.What am I Grateful For?