Kansha, Cultivating Sincere Gratitude
The Japanese word “kansha”, deeply rooted in Buddhist philosophy, literally means “appreciation, gratitude” but on a metaphorical level it stands for a beautiful practice of cultivating sincere gratitude. To learn different ways of expressing gratitude as well as the benefits of such a mindful practice, we invite you to read on…
A while ago, I stumbled upon the Japanese word "kansha", which literally means "appreciation, gratitude". On a metaphorical level, kansha, deeply rooted in Japanese Buddhist philosophy, opens up the doorway to a beautiful ideology.
This practice of cultivating sincere gratitude is the core aspect of Kintsugi, the art of mending broken pottery with lacquer and gold dust. Kansha is the appreciation of life as a whole - with its good and bad parts. The biggest challenge undoubtedly lays in "letting go of your own ego and reframing experiences so that you rewire your brain to see the positive instead of the negative".
Are there any benefits of practising kansha? Why would we want to cultivate gratitude?
Positive psychology research says that there's a strong association between cultivating gratitude and enhanced well-being. To be more exact, people who establish a gratitude practice are more open, less neurotic and experience higher levels of satisfaction in life. Being thankful also deepens connectedness in close relationships as our self-control rises and, with it, our willingness to forgive. Several neurological studies found that "gratitude increased activity in areas of the brain that deal with morality, reward and judgment". Oh, and it also reduces levels of cortisol, our stress hormone, by 23%! Nice!
Gratitude turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. - Melody Beattie
How do we go from theory to practice then?
Here are 3 tips on cultivating gratitude daily:
1. Keep a Gratitude Journal:
Find a peaceful moment to reflect on the events that took place throughout your day.
Drop into a meditative space, feel free to light incense, and write down 3-5 things that you're grateful for.
Observe your mental state as well as bodily sensations while recalling the moments:
What is it precisely that evokes the feeling of gratefulness in you?
How does it feel to recognise those moments as positive?
2. Create Mindful Moments of Cultivating Gratitude:
In a fast-paced world, we often go through our days mindlessly, with piling to-do lists in our heads. However, we can choose to practice gratitude during the most simple of our activities. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, once said:
When we walk like we are rushing, we print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the earth. Walk as if you're kissing the earth with your feet.
Next time you're walking from point A to point B can you do it mindfully, with compassion and gratitude? When you change the way you walk, you also change the way you carry yourself in the world with time.
Another way you can tie a gratitude practice into an existing daily action is to share your gratitude each day with your family at the dinner table.
3. Try Tonglen (or "sending and taking" meditation practice):
This "ancient Buddhist practice to awaken compassion" towards others and the self, according to Pema Chodron, an American Tibetan Buddhist.
Start by imagining someone who's suffering. It can be your best friend or a stranger you saw on the street.
with each in-breath, take in the pain of that person
with each out-breath send them a soothing sense of relief
notice how the practice liberates you from an egoistic perspective and opens your heart to the concept of selfless acts
“In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day–or to celebrate each special day.”
What will be your way of celebrating the unfolding miracle of every day?
Feel free to share your thoughts, or your gratitude for today, in the comment section below.