Last Sunday, I went for an afternoon walk through the local nature reserve close to my house. As I was walking, I looked ahead of me and noticed a lady had paused. She was standing completely still and looking out across the water. As I approached her, she said to me with a serene expression on her face:
Did you see it?
Looking up, I said:
Did I see what?
The Kingfisher!, she said
Aha no I didn’t this time, but I have spotted it flying around here before.
I have seen it twice today, she said, and each time I see it, it fills my heart with gladness.
I looked at her face and smiled, seeing first hand the rich positive effects of gratitude practice, a peaceful smile, kind eyes, and a mindful presence. She may not have ever deliberately practised gratitude, but her mind had immersed in this virtuous state, and as a result, she was happy and fully present.
When teaching the practice of gratitude right at the beginning of the training, I explain a method know as natural gratitude. A practice which encourages us to draw on the appreciation we already have within our minds.
Gratitude is a natural human emotion, and we experience it every day. When we are training in cultivating this mind, we connect with the gratitude that exists inside of us and water these seeds, encouraging them to grow with our contemplation and reflection.
If we look around at the world with mindful awareness, we can see examples of the positive effects of gratitude wherever we go. If we can actively train in this attitude through our day, we will find our mind naturally uplifting and becoming present.
Gratitude is linked naturally with mindful awareness.
For example; if we are fully present in the moment and take our time, gratitude arises organically. We feel a sense of appreciation for our experience and can see the network of kindness we are on the receiving end of.
Like the lady that I encountered in the above story, we can take our practice of gratitude outside. Nature naturally helps us to slow down and breathe deeper, providing us with a stage for the growth of gratitude in our mind.
Mindful awareness helps us to notice the detail in our life and gratitude provides us with the energy to allow this experience to uplift our mind.
I said to the lady.
Thank you for sharing your gratitude with me.
She looked at me and said it is my pleasure; we are so lucky.
We both went on our way enriched by the encounter our minds uplifted by gratitude.
As I carried on walking through the nature reserve now fully in autumn mode, I kept an extra careful eye out for the Kingfisher. Although on this particular walk I didn’t see it, the sighting of Kingfisher for me now would have a grateful significance.
The next day I was working in a room overlooking the garden.
A Kingfishers orange breast caught the corner of my eye. I looked up from my work, took a few grateful breaths, and just observed as it enjoyed feeding on the seed.