Super Soul Sunday
Sundays at 11 a.m. ET/PT
Filling the Heart with Gratitude and Thanksgiving: An Exercise from Jean Houston
Posted: Wed 11/21/2012 08:00 AM
Then, tune in Sunday for Oprah and Jean's discussion at 11 a.m. ET/PT.
By Jean Houston
At Thanksgiving, we become so grateful for the blessings of our lives. We are grateful for the feast of life and for the gathering of our families and friends and for the goodness of life. But what if we were to expand this further, to fill our hearts and minds with gratitude for all that is, was and shall be?
To do this, sit comfortably with your feet on the floor. Close your eyes and take three deep, easy breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, focusing on your heart. Feel its rhythmic beat. There is the space within your chest that your physical heart occupies, and then there is the space that your spiritual heart occupies that is all around you. Thank your heart for all of the beautiful work it does every moment to keep you alive.
As you continue to breathe in and out, imagine your heart gently expanding just a little bit. Our hearts hold memories and images, big and small. Think of your favorite spot in nature, a place where you feel strongly connected to the elements. What is around you? Is it warm or cool? Are there trees? Water? In your mind, look all around you; use all of your senses. Imagine this place in all of its expansive grandeur.
Shift in your focus now to one specific detail in the scene. It could be a golden honeybee on a blossom or a tiny curved shell on the beach. Fill your heart with other images from nature that you particularly love. Thank these things for blessing you.
Think now of any animals or live creatures you love or may have loved in the past—the equivalents of Toto for you. Picture them happy and healthy, romping, playing, purring. You might include wild beings you feel drawn to: wolves, ravens, dolphins or elephants. Imagine their warm fur, light shining on their feathers, their tails splashing the surface of the sea as they dive. Use all of your senses. What do they sound like? Smell like? Feel like? Fill your heart with images of these beloved creatures and thank them for blessing you.
Imagine a Yellow Brick Road that runs from a wonderful place in the distance straight through your heart. Walking, skipping, dancing along the road are all of your favorite people followed by your ancestors. Gently and easily expand your heart to embrace this parade of friends and family. Expand it enough to embrace the miraculous entirety of each one's life on this earth—all of the pain, all of the glory.
Now expand your heart to include all human beings, those of the past, present and future: fishermen in France, weavers in Guatemala, doctors in South Africa, scientists in Japan, sheep shearers in New Zealand. People of all ages everywhere. Bless and thank each person as he or she passes through your heart. Imagine this blessing and gratitude lifting them up, filling their hearts.
Imagine your heart expanding to encompass the entire Earth. Pour your loving energy into the oceans, mountains, forests, cities, villages and deserts. Think of all the wonderful things this Earth provides for the creatures that live upon her: the air, water, shelter, food and beauty. Bless and thank the Earth for all of her love, abundance and life-sustaining generosity. Move your heart's awareness out into space to encompass the sun that gives us warmth and light, to the moon and to all of the planets. Move out through the solar system into the expanding universe, now blessed and enhanced by your conscious thoughts and blessings.
Imagine all of the beings on the other side of the veil who care so much about our welfare—the invisible helpers who assist us the moment we ask. Send them gratitude through your heart.
Expand your awareness out to touch upon the very Source of all Existence—the Life Force that keeps it all going. Breathe it in. Pour love and gratitude out as you exhale. Do this several times until your heart feels full.
Slowly and easily pull your consciousness back from the Source, back from the solar system, back from the Earth herself, back from all the beings, human and otherwise, from both sides of the veil, back from your favorite places in the natural world, and finally, back into your radiant heart.
Feel the beating of your physical heart once more in the center of your chest. Know that these things you have cherished are always with you.
If you feel moved to do so, you could write a thank-you note to the world for all it has given you. You can also feed your heart by creating a collage of things you love and placing it in a prominent place where you can see it often.
How else could you feed your heart using each of your senses? What could you do with joy that you have never done before but always wished you could?
Once our own hearts have been filled, we have more available to give to others. One gift of gratitude we can give of ourselves is the gift of radical empathy, affirming the deeper essence of people we meet, strengthening our ability to see some good in everyone—the potential and greater core of each individual. We can choose to give others the gift of truly seeing them and listening to them, of being fully present with our attention. When we take the time to do this, the otherness disappears, and we establish resonance in our relationships.
Everything is connected; our thoughts and actions have consequences. We choose from moment to moment what we allow into our hearts and minds and what we do not. We can see injustice in the world and ignore it with a shrug, or we can expand our compassionate hearts and act.Realize that if an idea is really important to you or your time, considerable resistance will often arise to impede your commitment to its becoming. We must be strong, reconnect with ourselves and others, recommit to our goals and resist the urge to give up. We must step into our true selves and cocreate within that greater story. Perhaps the emerging new time is what the Mayans and the Hopi people have prophesized. They have long foretold the end of a world age and the transition to a new order of being. As the Elders Oraibi of the Hopi Nation tell us: "Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader. We are the ones we've been waiting for."
Adapted from The Wizard of Us by Jean Houston.