In Qi Gong, we’re always looking for opportunities to cultivate the positive qualities that the world invites us to celebrate. For holidays relating to the seasons, we look at the energies and gifts of the natural world and seek to learn from nature’s lessons. Although Thanksgiving isn’t specifically connected to the natural world, the feeling of gratitude is, and we can all benefit from cultivating our place of appreciation.
This blog post will discuss the importance of gratitude and how we can use the season’s energy to cultivate appreciation and joy.
Tendencies of the Mind
Most of us don’t choose every thought or feeling that we experience. In fact, many of us live in a reactive state, allowing our survival instincts to inform how we perceive the world. This means that when challenges arise, stress and tension are often the response we experience.
Sometimes our survival instincts are essential, such as when facing a life-threatening situation. However, in the twenty-first century, most of our challenges aren’t life-threatening, yet our response is still similar. Over time, stress and anxiety become a learned response and experiencing it becomes second nature. Just as waking up early and eating healthy food becomes a habit with practice, so can stress if we allow it to constantly occupy our mind and body.
How does experiencing stress relate to feeling gratitude? Well, when our attention is directed towards stress, we’re unable to hold space for gratitude and appreciation. When stress becomes the primary response to our day, it can create an endless cycle of thinking and doing.
On the other hand, gratitude does not proactively command our attention. Sometimes, a kind gesture from a loved one will invoke us to feel gratitude, but more often it’s our challenges that really get the best part of our attention span. Even if we do experience generosity and kindness, our stressed-out mind can prevent us from even noticing if we’re too wrapped up in our tension and anxiety.
Feeling grateful is something we need to consciously choose to do. The wonderful thing is that just like stress can become a habit, so can gratitude. If we make it a point to train our mind to feel grateful and appreciative, space will open up within our mind and body.
How can gratitude become a habit? Earlier we mentioned the importance of where we place our attention. Attention is a powerful thing and magnifies whatever we direct it towards. You can think of your attention as a watering bucket in your garden. If you pour water on the weeds and neglect the flowers, you’ll end up with a weed infested garden and no flowers. If you water your flowers and pluck your weeds, your garden will be radiant and beautiful.
Similarly, when we allow our mind to step onto the hamster wheel of stressed thinking and anxious emotions, that becomes our default. However, if we choose to direct our attention to that which is positive, gratitude will quickly grow.
What actions can you take to practice gratitude?
Of course, it isn’t always easy to direct your mind to a positive place. Somethings, we may even resent the idea of trying to focus on the positive. If you’re in a state of frustration and anger, you may not be able to go straight to gratitude. For many of us, physical movement including Qi Gong is a great way to help guide the water bucket back to flowers.
In Qi Gong, postures are a powerful way to work with the body’s natural energy for the intention we’re seeking. Once you’ve moved your body and practiced some Qi Gong, try a pose that invites gratitude into your heart. Bringing your hands together at your heart center (prayer pose) is a great way to return to the truth of what you have to be grateful for.
Another way is to think of something that you’re grateful for. Sometimes, it’s easy to let the unpleasant aspects of a person or situation to dominate our view, but that can change when we really hold space to examine the positive. Once you start to think about a person or place you’re grateful for, you’ll notice that you may realize more depth to appreciation.
For people in our life, it can be so easy to overlook the wonderful qualities that someone may bring us. Taking a moment to think about them can help bring an entirely new perspective on what we have to be grateful for.
Continue doing this until you’ve thought of at least three things to be grateful for. Take your time and really allow your thoughts and feelings to fully embrace the gifts that you’ve been blessed with. You’ll probably notice that you love doing this exercise and want to repeat it.
Gratitude and the Fire Element
Gratitude is an energy of the fire element and lives primarily within the heart. As we cultivate gratitude, our fire element is strengthened and our heart becomes more full of joy and love. Similarly, focussing on cultivating the fire element within the heart through Qi Gong practices, helps us to experience more gratitude and love in our external world.
These two approaches reflect the internal and external ways of working with our energy. In Chinese Medicine, Qi Gong practices for the fire element and heart are internal ways to cultivate gratitude. The external way of cultivating gratitude is to spend time relaxing and celebrating with those we love.
That’s why the holiday season is such a great time to practice love and gratitude. Yes, the holidays can bring stress and sadness, but we also have the opportunity to connect with loved ones and celebrate joy. This year, make a special effort to also go internal to cultivate joy and appreciation in addition to any celebrating you do with loved ones.
Here are a couple of Qi Gong recommendations that are great for reducing stress and nurturing gratitude. Just click the titles to learn more:
Thank you very much for reading our blog post. We wish you a happy and healthy holiday season full of gratitude and love.
By Ian Drogin