Our retreat to McLeodganj happened to fall on my favorite of all holidays…thanks giving. Manish and Neetu asked if I would give a little speech on thanksgiving and gratitude and I was incredibly stoked because it is such an interesting topic and I love when people get to interact on the subject. There was an article in the new york times this morning called “The Selfish Side of Gratitude” that reminded me of what we talked about nestled up in the mountains. For those of you that weren’t there I’ll do a quick recap.
We say thank you a million times a day in the US and it rarely means much. #blessed has become something we throw on the end of a post that somehow takes a moment that once felt big and meaningful and makes it feel trite and self serving. I asked everyone to take a minute and think about every single thing that has had to happen in his or her life to get them to this point. How did we get to be so lucky that we were sitting in that room together about to embark on a life changing experience? Our parents held us and fed us, made eye contact with us and read to us all so our brain stem could properly develop and we can go out into the world knowing that it is a safe place full of trusting people. About a third of the population didn’t get this opportunity and now view the world with a suspicious and fearful eye. When someone smiles at them they wonder why instead of taking it as genuine kindness. So when you feel a wave of gratitude, that overwhelming sense of ‘my god, how did I get here’ and your world becomes that much bigger how are you going to share it? Do you just think to yourself “thank you insert spiritual leader here” and move on or do you write it down before you go to bed to make you warm and cozy before your head hits the pillow. I am not saying there is anything wrong with gratitude journals and have made more gratitude lists than I can count so I do not exempt myself from this guilty pleasure, but when that’s all we do with our gratitude it becomes self serving. The article in the NYT asks “Who is interacting here? ‘You’ and ‘you.’” Its incredibly concise and very true. Gratitude becomes limited when we don’t share it with others or look for a way to take that momentum and do something for someone else. I really enjoyed the article and agree with almost everything they say until the very last line which kind of caught me off guard. It says “But now we’re not talking about gratitude, we’re talking about a far more muscular impulse – and this is, to use the old fashioned term, “solidarity” – which may involve getting up off the yoga mat.” This line came completely out of nowhere and limits the scope of yoga and feeds into our idea that its an individual practice. In the Bhagavad Gita it talks about Karma yoga or the yoga of action. It talks about not what you do but the attitude you have while you’re doing it that determines if a job is karma yoga. There are opportunities for us to practice karma yoga everyday. It is easy to help others. There are hundreds of people you interact with everyday that need help in some way shape or form but we need to connect and take those waves of gratitude as momentum to do something that goes beyond ourselves. We must be vigilant in this practice and seek out those in need everyday, because the only way to find something is to look for it. If you want to help others and don’t know where to start let me know! I know tons of families, organizations and individuals who would be overwhelmed with gratitude if you gave them a helping hand….and look at that, the loop is closed and momentum generated.
“The truth is one but the paths are many.” –Bhagvad Gita