Listen to the heart
Cultivating gratitude improves our lives in countless ways. The mindset gets you out of your head and into your heart. Instead of focusing on your worries and problems, you can channel energy to give thanks to everything the universe has provided.
"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others." – Marcus Tullius Cicero
Like any spiritual practice, you must commit to developing gratitude every day, no matter how much you want to fall back into old habits of complaining. Switching from complaining to appreciation is a powerful muscle to train. The key is to begin.
In the morning or the evening, you may practice writing a list of three to five things for which you are incredibly grateful. This practice allows you to focus on happiness and improves your outlook.
In a study carried out in 2003, researchers proved that those who kept a gratitude journal exercised more often, reported better mental and physical health, experienced better sleep and a greater sense of interconnectedness, and felt more optimistic. Writing a gratitude list is a straightforward way to instantly shift into a more positive perspective.
Another option is to create a gratitude jar. Every time you feel grateful for a person, event, object, or place, write it down and put it in the jar. You can pick up a piece of paper in the jar whenever you feel down and need to remember how lucky you are. Creating a gratitude jar will help you practice expressing thanks even for minor things. It enables you to remember and cherish the beautiful things you may overlook.
A third idea is to hand-write a letter to a person you are particularly grateful to have in your life. Be detailed. Express all the beautiful qualities about this person and how she has made your life better. Not only will this help you develop your gratitude, but it will also create a positive experience for the person to whom you write the letter.
Being a positive force for the people around you is vital to the collective healing process. As the famed polymath Albert Schweitzer said, "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."
It doesn't have to be complicated. Each small action makes a difference. You can tell someone you love and appreciate them. You can notice nature's beauty. You can deepen your friendships instead of constantly seeking more stimulation and new connections. You can pray before meals and thank all the hands involved in bringing the food to the table. You can practice complimenting rather than criticizing. When you are grateful, it's hard to complain.
Shantideva says, "All the suffering there is in this world arises from wishing our self to be happy. All the happiness there is in this world arises from wishing others to be happy."
It's important to offer ourselves to others with an abundant and generous mindset and to find ways to shift focus from "me" to other beings. Donating our time, energy, and resources to organizations whose missions we support can help us feel connected to a higher vision.
We may want to reach out to friends and family with whom we last connected some time ago. As we continue to work on ourselves, we increasingly bring joy and optimism to those around us.
Here is an example of a compassionate exercise entitled "Just Like Me:"
Say these words to yourself when you notice yourself having trouble being compassionate, feeling empathy, or recognizing common humanity. Remind yourself that the people around you are just like you, and see if you can find tangible examples to support this.
If you're annoyed with a customer service agent you've been on the phone with for an hour, take a step back, breathe, and ask yourself, "How are they just like me?" They're searching for happiness, just like you. They're trying to pay their bills, just like you. They are capable of love and pain and compassion, just like you.
The idea is to dissolve the separation between you and the other person through empathy. You can use "Just Like Me" anywhere, at any time. All people seek happiness just like you, and they may be going about it in an unproductive way, just like you.
If you need help remembering to do this, sit down in the evening and consider or write about the difficult people you encountered during the day. Then, list all the ways you think they are just like you.
Practicing self-compassion is paramount. The person we may have the most trouble feeling compassion toward is ourselves. We are often not there for ourselves in moments of suffering. Instead of alleviating the pain, our mounting self-criticism makes it worse. Many of us say or do things to ourselves that we wouldn't even do to the people we dislike. If our lack of compassion for ourselves impedes our ability to practice compassion for others, or even if we realize that we aren't including "me" in our circle of compassion, we can benefit from practicing self-compassion.
Practicing loving-kindness meditation can help us develop compassion. We want to talk to ourselves as we would speak to a friend or a young baby. When we begin to love ourselves, sharing that love and compassion with others is much easier.
Psychedelics may open us to ineffable spiritual insights, feelings, and ideas. We may feel that we finally understand how "everything is connected," "everything is one," and "it's all love." At the same time, how do I bring spirituality into my daily life? How do I create reminders of these experiences and my connection to the Divine regularly? There are several options available.
Gathering, studying, and contemplating the works of spiritual teachers with whom we resonate is beneficial. Their insights can help us remember essential truths. Rumi shows pain is often necessary for growth: "The wound is the place where the Light enters you." The Dalai Lama shares: "Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck." Amma teaches, "When we perceive goodness in everything, we will be filled with God's grace. That grace is the source of all success in life."
Creating an altar with pictures of our teachers or objects we find meaningful may be essential to creating a daily reminder for ourselves. Every altar is different, and there are no rights and wrongs. We are on the right track if our altar helps us connect with an essence within and beyond ourselves. We can learn more about creating an altar here and here.
We may feel called to visit retreat centers, churches, mosques, temples, monasteries, or other sacred sites. Spending time with our teachers is more potent than reading books or seeing pictures. We can connect with a community of individuals with similar values at these places. Feeling like a part of a larger community is an integral part of the integration process. Our psychedelic experiences teach us the importance of setting to our well-being.
Being in nature can also remind us that we are connected with the whole of life. We are made of the same elements in the natural world, and connecting with the trees, rivers, mountains, oceans, animals, and insects can connect us to ourselves.
Finding creative outlets to reflect on your journey and express your truth is essential. You can connect to and understand your experience from different angles by expressing yourself.
After a journey, you may feel called to write what you remember about your experience and to compare your perspectives and feelings to those from before. How do you perceive your intentions now? What has become clear? What insights have you gained? Journaling can help you slow down and get in touch with your innermost desires and truths.
Freewriting, the writing process without stopping for a set amount of time, can help you get more in flow. You write whatever comes to your mind without letting fear of grammatical errors, "bad" ideas, or poor writing inhibit your progress. Grab a pen or laptop, set a timer, and write continuously for the allotted time. Don't let your hand leave the page, or your fingers leave the keys—you can edit later. While this may initially seem uncomfortable, it is an excellent way to get the creative juices flowing.
It can be challenging to describe a psychedelic experience with words. If you're frustrated by the inability to verbalize your experience, you may benefit from creating, participating in, or enjoying art. Art comes in many forms, including music, performance, and painting.
Art is for everyone; it doesn't have to be perfect. If you don't want to paint or sing, you can find art to enjoy passively. You can listen to music, watch a play, or browse the local art gallery. Approach your art consumption mindfully. How does each piece make you feel? What emotions does it bring up? Being aware of and connecting with your feelings facilitates healing.
There may also be art therapists with whom you resonate or workshops or courses you can enjoy in this area.
Moving your body is one of the most important ways to balance your physical and mental health. For thousands of years, dance has been used, developed, and influenced by countless cultures. Dance connects you with your body and mind in a freeing and cathartic way.
Modern societies often stifle creativity and make you self-conscious about your body. You may worry about "not doing it right" or how others perceive you. Notice and ignore these feelings. You can start moving, even if it's alone in the bedroom.
Connecting to your body can help you feel more at home and peace with your physical body. Dance helps strengthen your heart and lungs, improves aerobic fitness, and promotes better flexibility and coordination. Plus, you'll feel more confident in overcoming obstacles and being creative.
You'll want to develop a connection between your thoughts and your movements. What does your body want to do? Does it want to dance softly and slowly? Does it want to chant and stomp to an upbeat rhythm? Does it want to move through space with closed eyes? Feel into the answers and allow your body to move without thought.
This connection with and appreciation for the body is invaluable as you grow and process the psychedelic experience.