I saw an article in the latest Mindful about being thankful for everything that goes on in your life. It’s a new article so I wouldn’t know if there’s an online version I could link everyone too just yet. The article was written by a psychotherapist that has been practicing and guiding mindfulness exercises for more than twenty years.
In Buddhism, there is quite a significant emphasis on the practice of gratitude. Through the training that I received, one of the first things I would think about is how grateful that I can see another day. Everyone has their own causes and conditions in their life and they may not be as smooth sailing as a rubber duckie in a bathtub. I’m glad that mine gives me many opportunities to learn Buddhism and be able to serve others in the process. My biggest takeaway from the article was the quote, “Offering our appreciation to one another is a powerful way to strenghten and even repair emotional bonds. Try it. It’s free.” The author suggested some exercises in the article that included listing out the things you are thankful for in writing, and observing how your body reacts to those items you’re thankful for.
The biggest thing I’m thankful for now is that I am about to complete my Master of Divinity program and move on to an environment where I can put all of the chaplaincy skills I learned into practice. Who knows where my road leads to from here?
On campus, I have been leading a contemplative practice called Chinese Sutra Chanting. It is basically a ritual of chanting the Diamond Sutra in Chinese. This began as a project to fully utilize the meditation room on campus, and after a semester of testing the program has now expanded to practices from different traditions on almost every day of the week. Now instead of this meditation room being empty, cold, and dusty, it feels cozy and full of energy.
I encouraged the other facilitators to continue to host their sessions even though nobody will show up. I very seldom have more than two people in attendance during my sessions, and I don’t mind at all. I take the practice as something for myself and for others, including those that can’t be seen with the human eye. I personally chose the Diamond Sutra because it’s a good length to chant in 50 minutes or less, and it’s a text that is compatible with most of the other Buddhist traditions represented on campus.
Do my feelings really fluctuate when nobody shows up by 3:57PM (session starts at 4:00)? Of course, if they didn’t fluctuate I would be pretty darn close to enlightenment by now. If nobody shows up, that means I can chant at my own pace and possibly end a little early. But still, I have a prayer list of people that made requests to dedicate the practice to them so that they can overcome whatever struggle they are going through. People have promised me at times that they will show up but they don’t, and that’s fine with me too. After doing this practice for more than 3/4 of the academic year, I feel like this has been somehow inspiring other students to contemplate within themselves. At least that motivates me to keep this practice going.