The pleasure of gratitude. This week, we’ll conclude our short investigation ofpiti or rapture.
A while back in my practice, I started to notice a curious connection that would occur in meditation whenever I consciously included a few minutes of reflection on the various things I was grateful for. The result was that quite often I would immediately slip into a minor or intense wave of effortless concentration and openness. One plausible explanation for this is that when we wholeheartedly experience gratitude for all that we have, the challenging mind-states such as craving, aversion and delusion (known as kilesas) are momentarily suppressed and rendered inactive. In their absence, the mind naturally experiences its innate radiance, clarity and calm.
In Buddhism, there is often the encouragement to seek refuge in the Triple Gem: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. But that very language, ‘seeking refuge’ can imply that we need to flee into the protective shelter of these elements, rather than cultivating an appreciative recognition of their fragile contingency.
So here’s a suggestion this week: spend a few minutes at the beginning of whatever practice you do with these reflections, and notice if they lead to an elevated experience of enlivened presence.
Gratitude for the Buddha: Here, I refer to the Buddha as the element in you that is awake, conscious and aware, not the historical prince who lived over 2,500 years ago. We can cultivate gratitude for this awareness that is, itself, the result of a dazzling evolutionary journey which has endowed us with a three pound lump of neurons capable of awareness. Awareness’s strategic roll in our freedom and happiness cannot be over-stated. Without it, we are imprisoned to our habituated reactions. But with it, we can reflect, see clearly and creatively respond to life in new ways.
Gratitude for the Dharma: Here ‘Dharma’ refers to the paths and teachings that encourage us to value and cultivate a deepening appreciation for this innate awareness. We can reflect on all the fortuitous events that conspired in such a way to bring us in contact with these paths. This isn’t to celebrate our ‘specialness’ so much as it is a sober consideration that things could have played out much differently. We might not have been so lucky to be born into an time, society or economic class that granted us access to these paths. A sincere appreciation of this ‘luck’ factor goes a long way to soothe the inner moaner.
Gratitude for the Sangha: Sangha often translates as ‘community of practitioners.’ In my own fashion, I like to expand the notion of sangha from those that are walking the path to include all those beings that helped to also bring me to the path. And this includes especially the relationships and encounters that have been seared with pain, betrayal and loss. These unpleasant touch-points with deep agony have fueled my interest in practice, to seek a resolution to this anguish, and (more in hindsight) I am grateful for their bitter medicine.
Obviously, I have fashioned these reflections in a way that is meaningful to me. As always, I encourage you to do the same. See where it takes you!
Originally published on September 22, 2011