The symbolism of the scarab represents renewal, forward momentum and the cycles of regeneration. These beetles roll balls of dung that become their food and home. Interestingly, these little guys and gals will roll their dung into a ball following a straight line no matter the obstacles set before them. They are creatures whose very livelihood is dependent on fierce determination.
Sometimes I feel like every turn is up hill and I’m not doing a very good job with my ball. These instances are rare but can come upon me like a sudden summer thunderstorm. During these times I will sit in front of my meditation table with a cat or two near my side and we’ll try to talk about things. We’ll vision board and mind map and do pranayama together; mine sort of a deep wailing technique and theirs a quiet purr of discomfiture.
Eventually my eyes alight on the black spine of a journal with Ganesha on the cover. It was an impulse purchase my mom made at T J Maxx a few years ago. She saw it and thought of me. Thanks Mom!
Sometimes a journal will be special to me because it is a gift from a parent or a beloved friend. I don’t have the heart to jam it full of maudlin thoughts or melodramatic dialogue on my less enlightened days. So I assign these journals special tasks. A green journal my dad gave me for my birthday goes with me to see Swami. I write mantras and meditations and teachings that are especially meaningful to me.
This Ganesha journal my mom gave me became a gratitude journal. At some point in the evening I’ll write things I’m really grateful for. I try not to repeat the same things too often; God totally knows I’m grateful for my nephews, nieces and the cats. It’s good to stretch gratitude to include more nouns.
Keeping a gratitude journal is a cool and effective practice for getting a person out of the dumps because of neural plasticity, a theory that states that whatever the mind is asked to recall will cause a chain reaction of seeking out more of the same from its daily environment. So if at the end of the day I make a list of things for which I am grateful, then during the next day in anticipation of that practice my mind will scan the environment for things to add to the list.
As the mind starts looking for a reason to say thank you, gratitude grows. When we spend more energy being thankful for our lives we expend less energy in despair, or at least begin to see light breaking through those dark clouds.That’s why when I can’t seem to pick myself up from whatever storm of malcontent my mind has whipped up I’ll dust off the ‘ole gratitude journal practice again.
Because Thanksgiving is upon us this month, I thought it’d be interesting to dedicate the month to this practice. We’ll be like little dung beetles adeptly rolling up great big balls of poop, but instead of poop we’ll be increasing our gratitude day by day, line by line; it’ll nourish and house our hearts.
Here is a magnificent scarab with a giant ball of poop. He’s been working hard.
In addition to discussing gratitude in yoga class this month, I’m going to talk about a mantra my Teacher introduced during the seasonal detox I participate in at Kashi Atlanta, where I study.
Om Hrim Namo Bhagavati Maheshwari Annapurnee Swaha
Swami said in the daily email, “In the Sanskrit language ‘anna’ means food and ‘purna’ means full or complete. This is a nurturing mantra invoking the healing essence of the divine mother to create health, fullness, satiation and satisfaction. I like to think of the words going into the ghee and sending all that healing, mothering energy into my body.”
For many people I know, when asked to gather ’round and give thanks there is a challenge to reconcile their path with the expectations surrounding a traditional Thanksgiving prayer. It’s nice, when mingling with family and friends of different faiths, to have something sweet and simple to offer when asked to say Grace. This mantra is a beautiful example of that.
In honor of gratitude and our ability to move mountains with our fine determined Selves, this month on Saturdays at 2 pm the Kali Natha yoga class at Uru Yoga and Beyond we will practice The Grateful Monkey asana series. This series is devoted to Hanuman, the monkey general from the Ramayana who embodies the path of Bhakti (love and devotion) and service.
In Rama’s story, Hanuman flies to a far off mountain range to find the medicinal herb to revive Rama’s brother who has taken ill on the battlefield. Hanuman cannot recognize the exact herb that is needed and in his haste, lifts the entire mountain to take to the physicians so they can gather the healing herbs themselves. Rama’s brother is saved, the demon defeated and the queen restored.
The Grateful Monkey asana series teaches the Yogi to move the body in gratitude, so that every interaction is an offering and every gesture is a mudra of Thanksgiving. I look forward to practicing together. Please visit URUYOGA.COM for schedule up-dates and class descriptions.