Focus of the Month: November 2020

Celebrate Gratitude

written by Amanda Day Vance

Photo by: Elizabeth Dondis Photography (

Gratitude and compassion equals happiness and compassion.

“If you feel lost, disappointed, hesitant, or weak, return to yourself, to who you are, here and now and when you get there, you will discover yourself, like a lotus flower in full bloom, even in a muddy pond, beautiful and strong.”
― Masaru Emoto, Secret Life of Water

Please, take a moment right now for yourself. A moment of stillness and begin to find your breath. Notice the rise of the in-breath and the fall of the out-breath. Be mindful of the breath, be open to your awareness, breathing in and out without controlling or judging it in any way, just letting it be. Breath in. Breath out. Feel the evenness, the flow and the centeredness of the breath in the body and the mind. Circle your hands above your head, join your palms and bring to heart center. Begin to open the palms, pinky fingers and thumbs still joining, into Lotus Mudra. Begin to invoke the feeling of your deepest gratitude. Your thanks, sincere appreciation, your utmost respect to you, to those in your life, the earth, whatever it may be. Begin to sit in this space well and create openness from within.

Sit and know your sitting. – Joseph Goldstein

Life is inexplicably beautiful but can also feel hopelessly dark.
If you discover your inner lotus flower you will always flow through life radiantly bright.
Don’t give up practicing because it’s all there within you.

The Lotus Mudra opens the heart chakra and is a symbol of purity. It is the symbol of light and beauty emerging from the darkness. The Lotus flower grows through the mud but comes out on top radiantly clean and shiny. It is a symbol of believing in yourself while you grow through adversity in times of darkness. The lotus flower or padma, as it’s known in Sanskrit, is a symbol of loving kindness, personal growth and purity. It also implies that even if life starts out in somewhat muddy, murky and challenging circumstances, we all have the potential to grow, bloom and prosper.

The Buddhist often say; No Mud, No Lotus. – Thich Nat Hanh
Mudras have been used for thousands of years to direct prana or vital energy through the physical and energetic body. They are often used as a meditation practice to focus the flow of subtle energy and cultivate a calmer, more meditative state of mind to help overcome fear. The position of the hands combined with the intention of the mind can help positively direct thoughts, give a sense of protection and serve as an essential reminder of the power we have to create change or overcome challenges.

Gratitude is a practice unto itself and is perfectly aligned with yoga. It opens your heart and reminds you that, in the scale of life, what we often think are the big events are actually not that significant …but the daily moments that bring a smile to your heart can fill an entire life with wonder. What are you grateful for today? Set an intention to enter this season with gratitude in your heart. Practice being thankful for all the small moments of your life.

“Gratitude opens the door to … the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe.” – Deepak Chopra

Every morning I pause to offer gratitude for all the many blessings in my life. In the evenings, my children, Vera Louise, Vance and I express our gratitude for the day over supper. Not only does it invite more joy into our home, it lets me know what is going on in their lives and at school, football, gymnastics and lets them into my life more. It opens each of us up to our feelings and emotions, learning to slow down and to really be thankful for the joyful moments we have and also let the emotions flow. Sometimes it may bring up moments of happiness, other times, it may bring up challenges or something negative that happened that day. Learning how to work through and talk through those emotions through gratitude brings growth from within.

There’s a great quote by a Jesuit priest that says,
“It’s not joy that makes us grateful, it’s gratitude that makes us joyful.”

Often it’s the simplest pleasures of life that bring a smile to my heart – from the beauty of trees releasing their leaves outside my back patio, the birds chirping in the morning, walks in the park opening my ears and eyes to the beauty and the sounds of nature, to the laughter of Vance and Vera Louise giggling and telling stories. I have recently taken my first community yoga class outside at Longue Vue Gardens since the beginning of our new and wild crazy world. It was filled with so much natural beauty. I walked in and first glanced through the beautiful landscape and gardens, I spotted a female cardinal, my spirit animal – my Nana, amongst many hummingbirds and monarch butterflies, I knew it was going to be a special practice. And indeed it was. The evenness of my breath seemed to flow and dance with the songs of the birds. As this moment, this year, is a new beginning for me, in so many different ways, I glanced above to the vibrant, bluebird skies to notice a flock of geese in flight gliding through to their season of change. This was a moment of gratitude for me. A gratitude of peace, change, being back in the community that I love, feeling that connectedness again. The symbolism of a flock of geese is they are telling you to make sure that the path you are on, is your own path. Personally, I have been re-acquainted with my path these last few months, back on the path I had wandered from for so long. My path. My path of happiness and joy from within. To be able to feel that connectedness again and to be able to share that spirit with those around me, that is healing and that brings a sense of happiness and joy to my heart.

“Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.”
“If you don’t have any shadows you’re not in the light.”
– Lady Gaga

I really think that feeling connected is the key to happiness, as well, and is what makes life worth living. It’s very important for us to stay connected. And honestly, we as a nation, have been learning that so quickly and so well. Learning to connect with those we haven’t in the past, learning new ways to connect with other yogis around the world in on-line classes, meditating with strangers through a computer screen, but it still has the same meaningful experience as if you were in the same room. Connectedness from within your own heart, your soul. Anything that helps us strengthen and maintain our relationships and the sense of connection is really important. So, through this new world we are having to adjust to, our thoughts begin to rumble through the mind – judgement, negativity, love, power, all of the feels just swirling around. What is the energy you are feeling? What energy are you connecting to? What energy are you receiving and giving? Is the energy positive or negative, wacky or calm? This is the time to begin to slow down, to maybe stop rushing and stressing, to get into the mindset of taking control over this wacky energy you may be putting into the world and choosing the positive, happiness and gratitude instead. You have the choice to feel what you feel, you have the choice to change that energy around you if need be.

“So you think this is just another day in your life? It’s not just another day. It is the one day that is given to you…today.” – Br. David Steindl-Rast

“Sometimes in our lives, we all have pain. We all have sorrow. But if we are wide, we know that there’s always tomorrow.” – Bill Withers

The first thing to realize is that you are in control of your own energy. I know it doesn’t feel that way sometimes. Depression can take hold like an invading germ or virus; anxiety can cause fear to leap out of nowhere; anger can simmer like a pot on the stove. Yet these conditions do not define you, and in fact you can begin to use basic energy—the kind that comes from food, air, loving relationships, nature’s beauty and the flow of creativity—for your own good. All these sources of energy are available to you all the time, anytime. They are part of your birthright; they connect you to the flow of life, which is constantly renewing itself. You can never be entirely disconnected from life-supporting energy.

So… What are the stories you tell yourself?
We all tell ourselves stories about who we are and what life is like. Maybe your story is that you are stressed out, maybe you have lost someone, or a relationship, maybe it’s health issues or depression. The negative stories we tell ourselves limit our capacity for joy and happiness and limit the ways in which we see the world and how we can serve in this world. The thoughts that we tell ourselves either help us pollute our world or elevate our world. It is our responsibility to be conscious of our thoughts, not only so that we can feel better, but also so that we can begin to heal the world. Learning how to control your energy and create positivity in all areas of your life. Check in with your emotions, what are they telling you? How can you change them? How can you create happiness over unhappiness or positivity over negativity? How efficiently are you leading your life? Where is your energy really going: negative or positive?

Deepak Chopra:
“How is it that two people in the same room can wind up with completely different energies, one depressed and the other upbeat? What kind of energy do you give off? For most people, the greatest good they could do for themselves is to change their energy. Your emotions give off energy that can be positive or negative. It’s a common experience to walk into a room and feel tension in the air, as opposed to a room where the atmosphere is cheerful and relaxed. We tend to assume that energy is physical, but two people can eat the same lunch and wind up with totally different energy. One person may be depressed, unhappy and stuck in her ways, while the other is alert, vibrant and creative. Clearly, it’s not the food they ate that made the difference but a subtler level of energy—the level where mood, emotions, motivation, aspirations and beliefs exist. It takes energy to keep this level of life going, so when we say that someone is giving off negative energy, what we really mean is that at the subtle level of mind and body, negative beliefs are consuming energy and turning it into negative actions, words and thoughts.”

The relationship between joy and gratitude… practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives.

I also feel during these times, we lose our compassion and we can defiantly lose our self-compassion. Finding the relationship between joy and gratitude comes with compassion and self-compassion as well. Compassion is tied to action, as is gratitude. Practicing and creating gratitude, brings more compassion to yourself, then in many ways delivers compassion to those surrounding you. How can you respond to what someone else may need or you may need? Creating mindfulness and mindfulness self-compassion through gratitude. Being mindful of being open to more compassion. Accepting without judgement. Mindfulness is knowing what you are doing in the moment, present moment awareness, being present in the body without judgement. So, as we practice our gratitude daily, big or small, know that we are growing our compassion and self-compassion. It all begins with the foundation of mindfulness. With mindfulness and gratitude, there is more self-compassion and acceptance.

It is the inner experience of how we are dealing with what is happening. What is the attitude in the mind? Is there resistance?

“Anything can happen to anyone at any time.” – Joseph Goldstein

“Mindfulness doesn’t depend on what is happening, but is about how we are relating to what is happening.” – Sharon Salzburg

It seems to all go hand in hand. Practicing, creating, gratitude, joy, compassion and self-compassion. Finding the relationships between them all. Learning and teaching these tasks, these practices, learn to find something new within them all. Bring gratitude into all you do. See more light in all that you can. Respect for what you are doing. Open minded to practicing your practice.

Three easy, powerful exercises.

1) Begin the day with gratitude, wake each morning by saying thank you. Thank you for the new day, thank you for giving me the strength to move forward, thank you for showing me where I am to go today and what to do, thank you for bringing me connectedness with the day. Maybe journal, this simple action of writing these down, catapults you into an energy of gratitude and happiness.

2) Appreciate others, show those around you how much you appreciate them by telling them.

3) Give the Gift of Gratitude, write someone a letter (remember the old way of communication, writing letters! Pen pals from around the world?), my children and I received so many handwritten letters during the pandemic. It is probably the kindest gift ever – a handwritten letter.

By putting out gratitude, you will receive more of it in return. By putting out more compassion, you will receive more of it in return. Commit to these practices every day and feel the shift of life. Attract more of what you want in life – happiness and joy, compassion and self-compassion – and become more of a force for good in this world.

The world will only heal when we learn to heal on each other. If you aren’t strong, come lean on me, I will hold your hand.

“When you have become the embodiment of gratitude, think about how pure the water that fills your body will be. When this happens, you, yourself will be a beautiful shining crystal of light.” • Masaru Emoto

I encourage you to reflect on what your yoga practice has done for you over the years.
Maybe this month, maintain a gratitude journal. Every morning start your day with a simple gratitude mediation about 3-10 things you are grateful for, both big and small. Simply write down the little moments of grace that comes effortlessly into your life. You may be amazed how these blessings cultivate a beautiful abundance of love and joy. Make the whole month about giving thanks. Maybe, it will become your lifetime habit.

“We all need someone we can lean on” – Rolling Stones

Dates to remember:
Friday, November 13 is World Kindness Day – in a world of crisis, kindness matters more than ever. Share your kindness. Grow your love.
Thursday, November 26 – create and practice a gratitude project for not only the day, but the rest of the year.

Groups to Join:
Please join my friend’s Facebook page: Project Gratitude, an experiment in the power of gratitude, embrace gratitude big and small. It is a beautiful page with different people from all around sharing gratitude and happiness in different ways. It is how it is being shared, it is making a difference in lives, it is real.

Quotes of the month:
“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” – Anonymous
“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” – Karl Barth
“You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” – Willie Nelson
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” – Buddha
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
– Oprah Winfrey
“Gratitude for the present moment and the fullness of life now is the true prosperity.” – Eckhart Tolle
“Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is
where the joy resides. It means that you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.” Anne Lamott
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust

Suggested Books this month:
Words of Gratitude for Mind, Body, and Soul by Robert Emmons and Joanna Hill
The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg
The Midnight Library: A Novel by Matt Haig

Suggested yoga poses to practice this month:
Mountain Pose – Tadasana
This welcoming, powerful pose kindles gratitude as you open your heart and stand grounded to receive. Feel hopeful and grateful for all of your dreams and the unknown adventures of the future that gives you a sense of purpose and openness.

Standing Forward Fold – Hastapadasana
A wonderful hip-opener that is gentle and inspires gratitude as you fold forward into yourself, getting closer to the Earth as if you are putting a gentle kiss of gratefulness on the forehead of Mother Earth. Bow down and surrender. Let go of the things that are not serving you. Find gratitude for your very breath, a sign that you ARE alive and everything IS possible.

Camel Pose – Ustrasana
A challenging pose in itself, but inspires gratitude as you practice courage and vulnerability while remaining open. As you open your heart, throat and shoulders, finding gratitude for all of the courage you have summoned into your life and how it has helped you through all of the challenges, big and small.

Seated Forward Fold – Paschimottanasana
An inspiration of gratitude as you focus your attention inward. As you breath, calmly, consider one part of your body for which you are especially grateful for.

Supported Reclining Heart Opener – Supta Baddhakonasana
This resting chest opener softens and opens up the heart chakra and inspires gratitude as you allow the props to support you. Think of a friend, a family member, a mentor who is dear to you and all you have learned from her/him/them. Allow the thoughts to inspire feelings of being nurtured and loved. Feel the gratitude for yourself and those surrounding you radiating our from your heart center.

Knees to Chest – Pavanumutansana
Lying down on your back, draw your knees into the chest and wrap your arms around them. Take a moment to feel gratitude for yourself. Hug yourself. Accept yourself of WHO you are and WHERE you are.

Corpse Pose – Savasana
Resting completely, letting go all tension, inspires gratitude. Find compassion and gratitude for your own journey, for all of your strengths and all of your struggles. Feel compassion and gratitude for all beings everywhere, wishing them health, happiness and ease on their journey as well.

Music for the month:
“Thank you” – Sly and The Family Stone
“Thank U” – Alanis Moriesette
“Lovely Day” – Bill Withers
“Lean On Me” – Bill Withers
“We All Need Someone to Lean On” – Rolling Stones
“Days Like This” – Van Morrison
“I’ll Be There” – Jackson 5
“Give Thanks and Praises” – Bob Marley
“You and I” – Lady Gaga
“Om Shakti Om” – Trevor Hall
“Chapter of the Forest” Album – Trevor Hall
“Glorious” – Mamuse
Nirinjan Kaur
Gurunam Singh
Masala Roo – Meditation
Sounds of Nature
432 Hertz Meditation


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