I tend to do as many evening walks as possible, both to maintain a healthy weight and to preserve sports as a practice for a healthier life. One of the times I went out for an evening walk with my dog Shusha I practiced gratitude. In the past, I’ve detailed comprehensively in my blog how I practice Walking Meditation. In this article, I want to share with you a technique that I practice and helps me increase my focus and at the same time helps me practice gratitude.
That evening, I remember, I started walking at a fast pace, and while walking I started looking around and thanking all the wonderful things around me. It was a very spontaneous practice, without any effort. I just enjoyed the walk so much that I could not help but appreciate all the wonderful things around me: the beautiful flowers that were by the side of the road on the trail I walked, the majestic trees that adorned the sidewalks, etc.
Quite naturally, when walking fast, the heart rate increases and so random and associative thoughts gets created, which might distract and overwhelm you. Biologically, as more oxygen enters the brain and the heart rate increases, I’ve noticed that it is always accompanied by constant overthinking. Gratitude is a wonderful way to help me get rid of negative thoughts, and at the same time stop the monkey mind from overthinking.
In this context of the sporting activity, in my life, I’ve come across two types of people. The first type is people for whom sporting activity constitutes a meditative state and completely empties their minds – just like my dad. The second type is people whose physical activity actually increases the number of thoughts. I am an example of a combination of these two types of people, in the sense that one-time sports activity is meditative, and sometimes sports activity actually increases the intensity of my thoughts.
Back to the story. Indeed, that evening I started practicing gratitude. I won’t forget the feeling that I was suddenly flooded with unrelated thoughts. When I started the exercise of gratitude, I said to myself: “Thank God for the beautiful flower I see, thank you for the good feelings in my heart, …” The longer the gratitude mantras were, the more and more thoughts distracting thoughts popped up. In this article, I describe it extensively, though in my head it all lasted a fraction of a second. At the same time, when it happened, again and again, it distracted my focus on gratitude and the wonderful feelings that filled me. I decided at that moment to shorten my gratitude mantras. I mean, I was looking at something and in my heart I just said “thank you”. In fact, I cut the literal description of what I was looking at, and shortened the sentence “Thank God” to simply “Thanks.” It was clear to me that my intention was to be thankful to God, even though I’m not literally saying it.
The shortening of the positive mantras made me much more focused on the feeling that emerged from my experience. The shortening of the mantras made me much more focused on the “here and now,” much more present at the moment and experiencing it in all its glory.
I decided to write this new technique, to show that there are 50 shades of Grey for practicing gratitude. As I practice gratitude more and more, I develop techniques that help me ameliorate and refine the tools for positive thinking. Slowly, my blog is becoming a toolbox where I can openly share what are the tools that help me think better, think healthier, and more optimistically. This is how I optimize my optimism.