One of the first and greatest lessons I have learned from my yoga teacher was the art of saying thank you. I don’t remember the exact details of the compliment she gave me. I can’t even recall what I had done, but it must have been helpful or done exceptionally well. What I do remember is twirling a strand of my long hair around my finger as I hemmed and hawed in self-conscious shyness. I stumbled over my words. I’m sure I said something along the lines of, “It was no big deal… I am happy to do it…” Then, I clearly recall saying, “I’m just not really sure what to say!”

“Well,” she smiled. “You could just say thank you.”

It is our light that most frightens us.

A Course in Miracles teacher and presidential candidate Marianne Williamson wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” This was certainly true for me. I was so comfortable with my own littleness and ashamed of the power within me that I was unable to receive my teacher’s compliment. When we make excuses for our goodness, we undermine the very goodness we seek to share. Saying thank-you when we receive a compliment is not arrogant. It is a humble acknowledgement of our true nature.

Not only is saying thank you when we receive a compliment an act of personal empowerment, but when we compliment another, we uplift them by recognizing their true nature. Furthermore, we invoke what we are grateful for. When we say thank you, not only do we express that we see another person’s greatness, but we also call that greatness forth.

Gratitude gives us a new perspective.

When we are busy and distracted, we are unable to drop into the pause that allows us to appreciate the moment at hand and the person in front of us. We do not realize we’re surrounded by opportunities to say thank you. Every day we interact with people who make our lives easier: the barista who made our cup of coffee, the man who fixed our favorite machine at the gym, the woman who helped us bag our groceries and politely asked if we needed assistance taking them to our car. We are not entitled to any of these actions, regardless of whether or not the person is being paid to perform them. Through their work, people share their time, talents, and energy with us. What would our lives be like if they were not there? I know mine would be far less pleasant.

We live in a troubled world. It is easy to get stuck in hopelessness and pessimism. Despite the challenges this world faces, it is still a good world full of wonderful people doing the best they can. Gratitude allows us to shift our negative perspective and re-focus our awareness on the love that surrounds us.

Practicing gratitude.

Gratitude is a practice of remaining present. When we forget to give gratitude, we are the ones who miss out the most! Here are five simple ways we can all incorporate gratitude into our daily lives!

  1. Every morning, write down three things you are grateful for. This is a great way to start the day! It sends a signal to our minds to pay attention to opportunities to give thanks.
  2. Send thank you notes! When I was a child my mother made me send handwritten thank you notes. I didn’t appreciate this until I was much older. Handwritten thank you notes take time and effort. They express the depth of our gratitude to the person to whom we are sending the thank you note. The act of physically putting pen to paper in thanks also imprints the kindness and generosity we have been the recipient of and the sincerity of our gratitude into our brain.
  3. Make a gratitude jar. You can do this simple gratitude practice all year long! Every day, write down something you are grateful for on a piece of scrap paper. Put it in your gratitude jar. At the end of the year, take out all the little notes you’ve made. Your heart will be warmed as you review all you have to be grateful for over the course of a year!
  4. Give gratitude for the challenges you face. This practice may seem counter-intuitive, but rest assured, it is powerful. Yoga teaches us that there is always a bit of darkness in our light and a bit of light in our darkness. This is what keeps all things in balance. We are not perfect. Our lives are not perfect. We do our best to invoke the light no matter what darkness we face. One way of doing this is to give gratitude for the challenges we face, the lessons it taught us, and our ability to serve others as a result of having faced those challenges.
  5. When someone does or says something nice to you… simply say thank you!