Third up: Gratitude Practice
The other powerful practice to add to meditation is a gratitude practice: Spiritual wellbeing is closely associated with, in fact indistinguishable from, from gratitude. Science has begun examining the physical effect on health of this one powerful sentiment. Nothing alters mood as effectively as gratitude. Japanese therapists have used gratitude as a successful treatment for even the most serious depressions.
The happiest people on earth practice or experience gratitude naturally—my guides say gratitude and a loving-kindness meditation are the most beneficial practice for our time.
Unfortunately, for most of us, gratitude has disappeared in the great noise of our lives. We need to find it again. We need a reminder of its awesome power to lift our hearts and minds and direct us to peace and contentment.
It is remarkably simple to invite gratitude into your life.
Collect twelve small objects: stones, pennies, beads.
As you handle each object, in turn, think of something, one thing, you are grateful for. The list is endless: individual family members, your health, home, job, car, individual friends, the dog you love so much, the pleasant things about where you live, etc. It can even be the simplest pleasures: a hot shower and cup of coffee in the morning, a great meal, a beautiful night sky.
Find nine things you are grateful for in your life.
Repeat this every day.
Use the remaining three stones to find three new things each day for which you are grateful. A moment of laughter with a stranger, your child’s joy at acing a test, your partner’s smile, the ancient tree out the window. The three new gratitude opportunities are an important part of the practice, as this literally begins training your mind to look for and find gratitude as you go about your day. This works to program us for positivity.
Once again, what resonates in the spiritual realm is supported by research in our material world. This simplest of practices literally rewires your brain for happiness. In positive psychology research, a daily gratitude practice tackles depression better than pharmaceuticals. (Side effect: joy.) It has immediate and powerful physiological effects. Consciously and consistently practicing gratitude has been shown to help people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build stronger relationships.
And with any gratitude practice, we often recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside ourselves. Gratitude connects us to something larger than ourselves—to other people, nature—and often, to a higher power. Use it for your spiritual practice. Express thanks for your spiritual connection, whatever it is, even if you do not quite feel it yet. Gratitude for spiritual blessings reverberates into the spiritual realm. What does this mean? If you receive a spiritual blessing, expressing gratitude for the gift returns tenfold. Gratitude is like a spiritual coin, and it buys all things good.
There are endless ways to employ gratitude. Research shows gratitude practice enhances personal relationships. It first causes a shift in our emotions before altering behavior towards our loved ones. Our change, in turn affects their emotions and behavior in an ever escalating cycle of kindness and joy. Gratitude directed at the people in our lives triggers a blossoming and a renewal of love.
Try it. Think of a family member. Make a gratitude list of the qualities you appreciate and admire in this person. Really contemplate these qualities, how wonderful they are. Pair the list with a happy memory of the person. Feel your heart burst open.
Like all spiritual practices, there is no limit to gratitude; it can always be cultivated further.
So, there you have it. What starts with the foundation of all spiritual practices—the conscious abstention from meat—leads to the opening of doors. Walk through with these simple and timeless transformational practices. Found in various forms in all religious traditions, they deepen and amplify your religious-spiritual experience. The byproduct is a happier, better life on this, our material plane: greater health and wellbeing, a more loving connection with family and friends, a more meaningful participation in the wider world—and, finally, the understanding and desire to how best to serve.
The material benefits trigger a mystical payoff. This is the transformational aspect of the vegetarian diet. It is the high choice, the best choice not just for us, but for the wider world. It all starts by going vegetarian, but it ends with a good life well lived.
Maybe even an extraordinary life well lived. .