Grateful Body: How to find an open heart in troubled times
Updated: Jan 9
Many of us know the power of gratitude to change our lives. When we’re reminded to practice gratitude, most of us find ourselves filled with love and peace. As we bring to mind all that we are thankful for in our lives, we feel waves of positive feelings.
In America, we even dedicate our most precious national holiday to this practice: Thanksgiving. Gratitude shifts our focus from what we lack to what we have, it brings us into presence and opens our hearts. But, what if all we are grateful for is stripped away? What if we find ourselves filled with longing, fear, or anger as we peer at the unjust world around us?
Even the most conscientious practice of gratitude can fall short when we focus gratitude on the things outside ourselves. We are grateful for our family, health, wealth, peace, and friendships. Then one day, perhaps in the midst of a pandemic, all is unceremoniously taken from us. Our family is ill, our job is lost, our nation’s shortcomings are thrown in our face. What then can we be grateful for? How then can we find our way back to an open and loving heart? How can we take up the fight if we are paralyzed by loss or anger?
The answer comes when we practice gratitude for our inner gifts. The gift of our own calmness, kindness, and love. As the world around us churns in violent upheaval, we can return to love through this deeper practice of gratitude. Practice gratitude for the qualities in yourself that you value most. Your kindness, your love, your ability to empathize with the pain of others.
From that place of gratitude, we can take up the fight for truth and justice from a posture of strength. When we anchor our gratitude in our soul’s higher qualities, we find ourselves more able to step into our power and purpose.
I work with horses in my spiritual equine coaching practice. Clients come and learn about themselves, their inner truths, challenges, and gifts, through the eyes of the horse. Horses invite us to enter the present moment, to be grateful for what is, and find peace through living in our truth. In my practice, one of my horses gave a client a beautiful gratitude practice that I will share with you now.
Stand with feet hip width apart, shoulders relaxing down the back, and heart open.
Inhale deeply into the belly, ribcage, then upper chest.
Exhale deeply in the opposite direction: upper chest, ribcage, then belly.
Now, focus on each body part, beginning with your toes. As you focus on each body part, bring to mind something within that you are grateful for.
Work your way from toes to legs to trunk to chest to arms to fingers to neck to head. At each body part, visualize that inner quality of yourself that you are thankful for. If you run out of ideas, begin visualizing moments in your life where you handled a situation in a way you are grateful for.
Rest when complete, standing and soaking in the feelings unlocked through the practice of embodied gratitude.