Last month I wrote about the path of the ten virtues being a path of energy. This is important to realize. If we think of these virtues as spiritual obligations, or as something one does to become a good person, then there is a resistance to them. Perhaps resistance is not the right word, but there is a reluctance or heaviness about doing them because it is just another set of obligations we are expected to meet in our already busy and overburdened life. Yet when we think of them as paths of energy, they become much more interesting. They cease being obligations and instead become a means by which we are nourished and uplifted. This is the point I'm trying to convey. You are the benefactor of traveling these paths of energy.
Path #2 – Gratitude
I'm going to quote from my book The Practice of Happiness :
“There is a hidden hierarchy in life which dictates that gratitude for what we already have precedes the attainment of that which we still desire. Gratitude always comes first, and gratitude can start right now, in our not-so-perfect life.
The power of gratitude cannot truly be appreciated until you have practiced it regularly.
The vibration of gratitude transforms lives. All change in our life begins from within, and when we make a conscious decision to be grateful for what we already have, even if what we have is very little, we set in motion vibrations that attract more to us.
This is the magic of gratitude. It attracts more of whatever we give thanks for. If we praise and give thanks for our health, greater health will come to us. If we take the time to praise and give thanks for the ordinary moments of joy and happiness, even more of those moments will appear. Gratitude not only multiplies that which is praised, it increases the blessings in other areas of our lives as well. This is the truth and wonder that each person awakens to when they regularly practice gratitude.”
Gratitude is a very potent energy source. If you desire to achieve your goals, then awaken to the truth that gratitude for what you already have, however limited, will help you achieve them, for it will give you much needed energy, which in turn you can use in whatever way you see fit. The trick is to practice appreciating and giving thanks for even the smallest pleasures and joys. To walk this path of energy means you are vigilant in seeing all that you now have for which you can be grateful. Drink deep and often from this source; the energy you can receive is unlimited.
Path #3 Praise:
The energy path of praise is traveled when you verbalize your appreciation both internally and externally. But the appreciation must be sincere and heartfelt if you wish to benefit from it. Praise is a form of energy that benefits both the one praising and the one being praised. When you praise, you receive energy. Notice how you feel the next time you choose to consciously praise someone, perhaps one of your children, a friend, a co-worker. When it is sincere and not meaningless flattery, when it comes from the heart and is spoken, be aware first of how you feel, both as you say it and as the person's reaction to your praise is received. How do you feel? If you're aware and conscious of your feelings, you will notice a surge of energy within you. You will feel uplifted. This is a path of energy. And how does the other person feel?
Think about a time in your past when someone has sincerely acknowledged and praised you for something you did, or even simply for who you are. How did you feel? Did you feel uplifted? That feeling of being uplifted is energy. So both the praiser and the one being praised receive energy from this source.
Now let me speak of criticism, which is the opposite of praise. How do you feel when someone criticizes you? Angry? Upset? Discouraged? Deflated? Now think in terms of energy. Does it increase or decrease your energy? If you are conscious and aware of your energy flows, you will notice criticism always decreases your energy. Now what about the one doing the criticizing?
Think about times when you have singled out someone for criticism. How did you feel? You might say ‘I felt good' or ‘He had it coming,' or ‘I was justified in doing it.' This is what you think you felt, but if you monitor your energy, you will discover that when you criticize someone it actually weakens your energy. This is not to say that you should never point out shortcomings or help someone to see the error of their ways, but you must do it in a skillful manner that does not weaken either of your energy fields. Notice when you criticize others even in your mind, or maybe when you and another are criticizing someone else. Notice whether this ups or downs your energy. What you will find is that criticism always drains energy from you. This is something to keep in mind if you are someone who is in the habit of criticizing others or yourself on a regular basis.
Now back to praise. Praise is not just for others, it is for yourself too. Walking the path of praise means you drop your neurotic criticism of yourself because you see that it weakens you, and instead you look for sincere and honest ways to acknowledge yourself. When you do this, it gives you energy.
Praise birds, animals, flowers, beauty of all kinds wherever you find it. Credo Mutwa, a Zulu sangoma (healer priest), once shared with me that animals receive much energy and power when you sing songs of praise to them. “We can help them immensely,' he said, “by seeing their strength and beauty and reflecting it back to them with our words.”
Praise the earth. Praise God. Look for opportunities to give voice both externally and internally to praise. It is a great energy source.
This month explore the paths of gratitude and praise and be aware of how you feel “energy wise” when you walk these paths.