Every year we set aside one day to come together in thanks and celebrate the gifts we have in our lives. But at KiraGrace, we are challenging ourselves to make this not an annual practice but a daily one. It is all too easy to walk through life feeling empty, incomplete, and with a bitter, glass half-empty kind of mentality. In fact, we are often encouraged to believe in these kinds of falsities, but all this does is blind us to the sheer beauty standing right before us.
For further exploration of the power of gratitude in our lives, we asked the one and only Ana Forrest for her advice on the matter. Ana Forrest holds a powerful presence in among this generation and the ones to come. She has been changing people’s lives for 40 years. Ana is an internationally-recognized pioneer in yoga and emotional healing, a Medicine Woman, the creatrix of Forrest Yoga and author of the highly-acclaimed book, Fierce Medicine: Breakthrough Practices to Heal the Body and Ignite the Spirit. Ana has devoted her life to ‘Mending the Hoop of the People’. Each year she gives thousands of people the tools to help them design a life that they are proud of. With Ana’s meticulous guidance, her students cultivate an acute awareness of their own yoga practice and life, resulting in an exhilarating journey into self-discovery, cleansing, and healing. Ana received a Los Angeles Mayoral Commendation for her outstanding teaching and healing work in the community — the first time a major U.S. city bestowed such an honor on a yogi or yogini! We'd love to share with you her thoughts on the power of gratitude:Gratitude isn't circumstantial. Even in the midst of the darkest, stormiest season, there is always something to be thankful for. Take time to notice and praise these sweet treasures in your life, whether it's a dear friend, a great song on the radio, a cup of coffee, or simply waking up this morning with a beating heart. Even the seemingly mundane, average day you're going through on cruise control is actually precious - worth more than rubies and gold. This kind of practice requires discipline and grace, but just like working out a muscle, it grows stronger over time and easier to maintain. Practicing gratitude daily is a worthy devotion because it welcomes joy and peace into your days and opens your eyes to the abundance present in your life.
KiraGrace: What does gratitude mean to you?
Ana Forrest: When we move into gratitude, we acknowledge and feel the sweetness that’s working in our lives. Focusing on gratitude changes us alchemically and moves us out of hungry-ghost mode— a state of being in which nothing is ever enough and we constantly want more.
KG: Does gratitude extend beyond the simple phrase, "thank you”?
AF: Yes! I take moments in Ceremony and prayer to feel what I’m grateful for. My friend, and Forrest Yoga Guardian teacher, Kelley Rush calls it ‘doing her gratitudes’. When I pray, I can reflect on what’s precious to me, and when I think about that, I get more and more fed: I have a home in the beautiful wilderness. I have a vision that compels me. I teach Yoga and love doing it. How great is that? I am loved and I love; since I went through a good part of my life without that, I know how precious love is. Praying means taking the time to actually feel that sense of gratitude.
Thinking and saying ‘thank you’ is a lovely sport, but doing that without feeling isn’t enough to make it real.
KG: Is gratitude meant for the recipient, the giver, or for both?
AF: Both. As a Medicine Person, people often request of me, “Send me some healing energy. I need it.” Even when I’m in the middle of my own storm, I can do prayers for another. Helping others renews me. In order to pray for someone else’s healing, I must first tap into these vast, wild pools of energy, and that’s exhilarating! I am enriched and nourished by immersing into the wilderness that is within me and all around me. The person I’m doing prayers for (the recipient) and me (the giver) both benefit.
KG: How important is it to practice gratitude in our daily lives? What is its true impact?
AF: Use setting your intent and Ceremony every morning—not just to fix what’s wrong, but to connect to what’s right.During Ceremony, reflect on what you have in your life already, that you are grateful for. Breathe that in and feel it. Make this part of your Spiritual practice. Gratitude is a necessary daily nutrient for the evolving Soul. Feed your heart, cell tissue and Spirit every day. By doing this, you recalibrate your brain function. This new paradigm, nourished by gratitude, creates a massive shift into a rich and fulfilling life adventure.
Here’s a very simple Ceremony for you:
— Get up in the morning (go pee first so that youʼre not distracted by your bladder!). Sit up straight. Take eight long breaths.
— Focus… Go deep inside.
— Feel for setting your intent. Something that matters to you. The intent could be for the next few minutes, for the next hour, or the whole day… For example:
— ‘I want to connect to every breath’
— ‘I want to breathe into and heal my low back pain’
— ‘I want to feel love move through me 3 times today’
— ‘I want to feel that I’m a part of the natural Beauty all around me’
— ‘I want to speak the truth today about what is precious to me’
If all of these sound really enticing to you, practice just one each day. Doing all of them at the same time is too much. When you forget, because you will, don’t punish yourself for forgetting. Instead, remind yourself to reconnect to your intent, in your daily activities — especially yoga!
Set your intent with Ceremony, and your whole life will have purpose. That in itself builds your gratitude.
KG: How do you practice gratitude?
AF: I would like to share this very Beautiful and profound ceremony that I do – The Braid of Three Truths:
– Breathe deeply and steadily. Relax fully, feeling the support of the earth beneath you.
– Now connect to a time in your life when you felt without a doubt that you were loved.
– Breathe that in and feed it to your core. Breathe in the truth that you're loved and feed it to your cell tissue.
– Now, forming a shining cord of energy built on this truth that you are loved, attach it to the top of the inside of your skull and run it all the way through your core and down to the bottom of your pelvis, right where your genitals are. Brighten it up with your breath
– Take a few more deep breaths.
– Now connect to a time when you felt love for another, when you felt that exquisite energy of love and affection and care welling up inside of you and pouring out into another person or pet or perhaps your deep love and affection for the land.
– Connect to that feeling right now.
– Breathe deeply, amp up your breath, and pour the truth that you can love through all your cell tissue.
– Taking another very deep breath, form that energy that you just made into a second shining cord and attach it to the top of the inside of your skull all the way through your core down to the first chakra.
– Breathe on it and brighten it up.
– Now focus on the last time you felt gratitude. It could be gratitude for deep breaths, for the ones you love and who love you, or for discovering your truths and giving them room to grow into bigger truths. It could be gratitude for connecting to your heart and Spirit, or beginning the journey to do that. Or gratitude for drinking in the beauty of a rainbow with all your sense. Perhaps you're even generous of heart enough to have gratitude for the really difficult lessons in your life that have forced you to discover other parts of you. Whatever you have gratitude for, generate that energy now.– Deepen your breath.
– Breathe that in and wash it through your core. Offer that gratitude, like a precious gift, to feed your cell tissue. Create a third shining cord and attach it to the top of the inside of your skull alongside the other two cords, all the way through your core down to the first chakra.
– Use your breath to make these three cords brilliant.
– Picture using your hands to braid them together: the truth that you are loved, the truth that you can generate the exquisite energy of love, and the truth that you have much to be grateful for.
– Breathe, and sparkle up your braid.
– When you feel the winds of change blowing through you, reconnect to this braid, re-creating it as necessary. You are loved. You can love. Your gratitudes. Stay centered on feeling the truths of your shining braid. It's yours. No one can take the truth of this from you.
Nourish yourself with Ceremony daily! Explore the ceremonies in my book Fierce Medicine. I give them to you. Use this offering to create the life you most deeply desire.
A great way to generate gratitude is to come work with me and/or my Forrest Yoga teachers in person. Visit www.forrestyoga.com to find out when and where.
Ana has some workshops coming up in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as the incredible Ignite Your Brilliance Retreat in northern California February 2015. Click here to find an event near you: http://www.forrestyoga.com/events
Ana teaches yoga from an intuitive and highly-developed understanding of the human body and psyche. Native American Medicine and the clinical application of healing modalities—including homeopathic and naturopathic remedies, anatomy, reflexology, pressure point therapy, craniosacral therapies, Shiatsu, chiropractic, polarity and hands on healing—always inform her work. She is a certified regression therapist, Reiki Master, ordained practitioner of Native American Medicine and consultant to a number of education and research bodies, including: F.A.R.E. Play (Foundation for Athletic Research and Education) and The University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic. Ana headlines at Yoga Journal Live, Wanderlust festival, The Big Web Yoga Weekend and she contributes regularly to many yoga, health and Spirituality publications. Ana 'guest' lectures at educational institutions and runs 5-8 Forrest Yoga Teacher Training programs every year.
When she isn’t teaching, Ana loves to ride her motorcycle into the wilderness!