One of the most important practices to develop along the spiritual path is gratitude.
It helps us stay grounded, be teachable and appreciate just how connected we all are.
Without gratitude on the path, we have put ourselves in jeopardy of possibly expanding our arrogance and further spiralling in the world of Samsara – the cyclic existence that is fraught with our mental conditioning and deluded way of experiencing life.
When we have gratitude to all who are helping us and have helped us in the past, we see that we can’t have success on our spiritual path without the effort of so many others. We become sensitive to just how many people living and those who have moved on from this life, have been so instrumental in our ongoing advancement.
How can we nurture gratitude? Who are we to be grateful to?
Start with contemplating just this lifetime: All the people who have nurtured you and supported you. Your parents who helped create your body. Your Mother who carried you for 9 months. All those people who aided in rearing you. All your teachers in school who educated you – taught you how to learn.
Even those you feel hurt you in your past – they are often our most treasured teachers, as painful as that might be to realize. Consider how their actions helped you grow, want to learn about spirituality and strive for the experience of Divine Presence.
If you really contemplate this deeply you will be shocked to realize how vast your support has been. And not only the people who interacted with you directly but those who did so indirectly. And those that supported those.
Think about all those that paved the way for you to be able to develop your spirituality in the peace and relative stability that we have in this culture now. All your spiritual teachers throughout all your life, who painstakingly dealt with helping you cultivate an open mind, discipline and consistency.
Then you can contemplate this beautiful planet we live on and all the nourishment she provides us. The millions of people involved with making our food, growing it, harvesting it. The ones who make the machinery to cut it and carry it. To process it, deliver and sell it to us. The people who made the roads for the trucks to travel on. The ironworkers who forged the metal. The miners who took the ore out of the earth. The earth who created it. The list goes on and on.
And that is just this lifetime, if you consider the countless lifetimes before this one that you have incarnated, the number of beings who have helped you enters into the billions.
Everything is connected. Everyone is totally dependent on each other. And when we see that, with the awe that comes from deep contemplation, a natural arising is gratitude.
None of us is alone. We are all truly one.
Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a beautiful essay on this interconnectedness – here is a small excerpt:
‘If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud there will be no water; without water, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, you cannot make paper. So the cloud is in here. The existence of this page is dependent on the existence of a cloud. Paper and cloud are so close. Let us think of other things, like sunshine. Sunshine is very important because the forest cannot grow without sunshine, and we humans cannot grow without sunshine. So the logger needs sunshine in order to cut the tree, and the tree needs sunshine in order to be a tree. Therefore you can see sunshine in this sheet of paper. And if you look more deeply … you see not only the cloud and the sunshine in it but that everything is here: the wheat that became the bread for the logger to eat, the logger’s father … the paper is full of everything, the entire cosmos. The presence of this tiny sheet of paper proves the presence of the whole cosmos.’
Thich Nhat Hanh (1987) Being Peace, Rider, London, p.45-47.
So, how can Mantras help us in our cultivation of gratitude?
There are no Mantras that I know of, that are dedicated specifically to cultivating gratitude, but we can say whatever Mantra we are working with with the intention of gratitude. The universe understands intention very well and whoever you are sending out that gratitude to, will receive it.
So, we can send that gratitude out to anyone or everyone, or to a specific deity we are attuned with, that we wish to thank.
A nice one would be:
I AM DIVINE LOVE
When we send out that love, with this understanding of interconnectedness, we can touch every sentient being everywhere. For, after contemplation, we know that at some time or other they all have helped us greatly.
Aly M. Dunne