I think the feeling which has overcome me most since becoming a mother is gratitude. Okay…maybe impatience…then gratitude. No other day in the year reminds me of how fortunate I am to have three beautiful daughters. Mother’s Day brings a sense of gratitude that is all too easily lost in the throughs of everyday family life. Am I thinking about how grateful I am when I am preparing three different things for dinner or when a stomach virus makes a round in our house? (These are nothing compared to the challenges faced by some, by the way.) Am I in a “nurturing” mood every minute? Definitely not. But yoga has taught me to find something each day, even if it is one thing, for which to be grateful.
Motherhood brings many gifts, but the gift of greater gratitude has definitely been influenced by my yoga practice. Coming to my mat daily serves a strong, mindful purpose to remind me of that gift. Some days it is gratitude for my physical ability to practice, others it is for the emotional comfort it provides, and still others it is for knowing that there are many less fortunate of body and mind. Those days may be the best as I set my intention and focus my healing energy and practice on someone other than myself.
This is, in part, what I hope to teach my children as they grow and learn…and that this life is greater than themselves. Children are self-absorbed by nature. My teenage daughter thinks the world revolves around her and sees little wrong with this perspective, however tirelessly I work to contradict it (she actually corrected me just yesterday that technically the Earth spins on it’s axis…not on her…but actions speak louder than words). Her happiness revolves more on what others have, whether it is the latest iPhone or greater athletic ability. I’m sure my family would not hesitate to agree that I was the same way. It’s part of being thirteen! A fellow teacher (and mom) uses the phrase “cultivate an attitude of gratitude” often in her classes. This perspective can be a daily challenge to instill when you’re a mom, but mindfulness of it’s importance can make a bumpy road smoother.
The second of the eight limbs of yoga are the niyamas, which focus on self-care and self-observation. One of these niyamas is contentment and gratitude, “santosa” in Sanskrit. In The Path of the Yoga Sutras, Nicolai Bachman encourages and teaches, “If we cultivate gratitude even when we are content, we strengthen that attitude in our heart-mind, like amending its soil, and make that gratitude easier to access when needed.” This idea is much like I stated in my post calling for cultivation of quality breath. He adds, “Gratefulness does for our heart-mind what food does for our bodies-it nourishes our heart-mind and creates a sense of fulfillment. Slowing down, stepping back, and appreciating the little things in life creates inner happiness.” (p. 182)
You don’t need to be a mother (or a yogi) to find gratitude in your life. Santosa teaches us that we are all different and find joy in different ways, but the attention must be contentment with whatever that means of joy is. Are contentment and gratitude always in the foreground? Of course not…but cultivating awareness is the first step, even if is a constant challenge to maintain the recognition. If it’s the fact that you’re breathing, be grateful. Then re-read yesterday’s post and think about that breath again…this time with intention!
It’s all possible.