Eastern philosophy has designed several practices to help us develop our yoga. Among these various disciplines, perhaps one of the most powerful is simply feeling and expressing gratitude. Remember that yoga really translates as “anything that unites us with the Divine,” so if we think of gratitude as a form of yoga, we can follow this path towards enlightenment.
If we accept the Eastern concept of the Ego, then authentically expressing gratitude necessarily breaks us free of our Egocentric prison. That is to say that we can’t really be grateful if we are stuck in the Ego’s self-referential world. Gratitude requires that we look beyond our own selves, which is something the Ego cannot do according to Eastern mysticism.
Now comes the harder part to accept. When we are grateful for help from other people, there is often (though not always) a payoff for the Ego. As such, we aren’t technically being grateful in the purest spiritual sense of this term. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t express gratitude to others when they help us, but here we are usually thankful for something the person has done for us. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and miracles are always within these situations anyway.
But let’s look at a more spiritual expression of gratitude. Most of us have expressed gratitude for some Divine intervention that has come our way—we needed a miracle and we got it—hurrah! And it is definitely helpful to remember that God (Brahman, Tao, Yahweh, Deeper Intuition, Etc) is concerned about us. But notice what’s really important here. When we express gratitude toward the Divine, we are acknowledging a Divine presence within our lives. We may remain at this level of experience (an expression of Bhakti yoga), which is certainly a good place to be, but we can also go deeper within this yoga.
Increasing our spiritual understanding enables us to be grateful for everything, whether it is a pleasant miracle or not. This begins unlocking a more enlightened perspective, for we begin to see the Divine in operation within all things--even in the midst of trauma. This doesn’t mean we feel good within our hardships, but there is an increased understanding and awareness of more to the picture than the pain we are feeling. This is a very advanced stage of spirituality, but it is attainable.
So to sum all of this, spiritual expressions of gratitude will lead us down the path of yoga. They quiet the Ego while acknowledging the Divine, and they slowly teach us to see a Divinely spiritual operation within everything. Understanding and experiencing this is no easy feat, but like all things in yoga, it is ultimately accomplished by keeping things simple: simply try to start expressing gratitude at times no matter what is happening in your life, and the power of gratitude will do the rest.