Embodied gratitude – Is it possible to feel gratitude?

How can I feel gratitude? What would it be like to be in embodied gratitude?*

These are beautiful questions that I was inspired to contemplate. What follows is what flowed through me when I paused to wonder…

*Note: The questions came from an incredible ‘Sunday Morning Special’ dharma discussion around gratitude. If you want to be a part of these discussions, please join myself and Patrick Heffernan inside our online yoga immersive platform called “Journey to the Peak”!  Try it for 2 weeks free, just click here!)

I believe I have experienced embodied gratitude. It evokes a memory of being in Thailand and traveling solo as a young woman who was eager to continue to learn the ancient practice of Thai massage in its country of origin!

I had just landed in the north, Chiang Mai, and had only secured my first night in a hostel, open to possibilities!  The scents of the famous street market were so robust. The sweetness of the lychee was so mouth-watering.  The colors of the skirts were vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds, accented with small ribbons of gold that completely captured my heart.  The smell of the deep colored teak wood in its beautifully carved embodiments were breathtaking.  The sounds of street musicians playing their traditional music was so moving.  I felt so alive!

The next morning I walked into a small Thai massage training center that I had previously found online when I was down in the south serving young children through volunteer work in Trang. As I walked in, I quickly noticed that I was the only non-native student.  This actually filled my heart as much as it made me a little nervous; especially because I did not speak very much Thai, and no one spoke English.  

However, the assistant teacher to the lead teacher quickly took me under her wing.  She could tell that I had already been practicing Thai massage.  The lead teacher would show a new position, or a new transition, and the other women and I would pair off and practice on each other.  

Before I knew it, the assistant teacher rushed by my side and said one word in English, “technique”!  It was the way in which she said it under her tongue, and with such glee and giddiness, that it totally lit up my heart! She would secretly show me even more moves, or a more advanced technique while we were practicing. “Technique!” So fun!

embodied gratitude

It has made me cry even to this day to remember her spirit.  In my humble opinion, these are some of the embodied gratitudes:

-the tears of happiness and joy

-the smile I received from her “techniques”! 😉

-the learning that carries on through my hands and heart from hers

-the passing of love from one human being to another

-the seeing each other as we are, and not needing spoken language at all in order to connect deeply 

-to touch each other with loving hands, to care so deeply

-to feel those loving hands on me, no words can describe it (not only because Thai massage is magical, and I am partial, but because when your body feels such a touch, you feel taken care of, seen, supported)

-to chant and breathe with others, as we did every morning before we washed our hands and feet in ritual before starting a new day of learning (song and vibration is an embodied gratitude!)

– to chant and breathe with others, as we did every morning before we washed our hands and feet in ritual before starting a new day of learning (song and vibration is an embodied gratitude!)

Now I can’t tell you ‘how’ to feel this, but I will invite you to stay OPEN to feeling it.  And actually feeling it all, all of what life holds. 

The big moments, like a Thailand trip, and every small moment inside the moment. 

Oh, those thousands of little moments!  I will stay with my Thailand pilgrimage for these examples*…

  • The 3 year olds in Trang, Thailand, and feeding them the food that the local temple makes for them and delivers it each day for lunch. 
  • Watching the parents at pick up and seeing the rich village life and culture of the beautiful Thai people. 
  • Singing with the kids. One’s name was Max and I could never have imagined having my own son named Maxwell, ‘Max’, one day. 
  • Bowing three times towards the Buddhas I encountered everywhere. (Both statues and manifested Buddha spirits in the people I met!)
  • Making sure I stepped over the doors threshold at every temple, honoring in ritual the entry
  • The infamous “Thai smile” that was so true.
  • The gardens and pathways that wrapped around the temples and the trees that would have little affirmations and messages nailed to the trunks. 
  • The trip up into Pai, Thailand, with the local bar owner and friends who I had become acquainted with while studying Thai massage in Chaing Mai.  
  • The swim in the cool river in Pai, looking out over the land and watching sacred flags float on air; wind to my own lungs and heart. 
  • The spicy AF meal that I ate one day, alone, in a lovely, and almost empty, restaurant because I told the waitress I could “handle it”! 🤣😂 Oh, was I wrong!…
  • The blessing of the sweet and cool Thai mango lassi cart right outside as I left that restaurant!!
experience in Thailand

{*EXERCISE: And what about your day today, right where you are?! What are your little appreciations/loves/joys/gratitudes?! Take a moment, turn on your senses.  

Notice what you feel.  What are you aware of that is connecting you to life and that invites awe, gratitude, thanks in your heart?  Where do you feel th we things most in your body?  

For example, are you smiling? Did you laugh?  Has your breathing opened?  Are your hands warming?  Chest vibrating? These are just some examples of bodily experiences, what are yours?  No wrong answered here, just your answers. }

I suppose, as I write, that memories are embodied gratitudes. 

The stories live in our bodies and when we recollect the events, especially when using all of our senses, we are transported there. We feel it all over again. We are even more grateful for the time we experienced life. 

In my classes this week I have been drawing from Jack Kornfield’s book, “The wise heart; a guide to the universal teachings of Buddhist psychology”:

“As a support for the cultivation of joy, we can also include the practice of gratitude. Buddhist monks begin each day with a chant of gratitude for the blessings of their life. In the same way, Native American elders begin each ceremony with grateful prayers to Mother Earth and Father Sky, to the four directions, to the animal, plant, and mineral brothers and sisters who share our earth and support our life.

Gratitude is a gracious acknowledgment of all that sustains us, about our blessings, great and small. Gratitude is the confidence in life itself. In it, we feel how the same force that pushes grass through cracks in the sidewalk invigorates our own life.”

Mr. Kornfield also writes:

” As gratitude grows, it gives rise to joy. We experience the courage to rejoice in our own good fortune and in the good fortune of others. Enjoy, we are not afraid of pleasure. We do not mistakenly believe it is disloyal to the suffering of the world to honor the happiness we have been given. Joy gladdens the heart. We can be joyful for people we love, for moments of goodness, for sunlight and trees, and for the very breath within our lungs. Like an innocent child, we can rejoice in life itself, in being alive.

The world we live in is a temple, and the miraculous light of the first star is shining through it all the time. In place of original sin, we celebrate original goodness. St. Teresa of Avila explains, “God does not desire the soul to undertake any labor, but only to take delight in the first fragrance of the flowers … the soul can obtain sufficient nourishment from its own garden.” In every meeting of the eyes and every leafing tree, in every taste of tangerine and avocado, a blessing occurs. This is true mental health.”

Jack Kornfield also reminds us of the words that the mystic poet, Rumi, says, “When you go to a garden, do you look at the thorns or the flowers? Spend more time with roses and jasmine.”

Take a moment here, dear reader, what comes up now when I ask you, ‘what are you grateful for’? What brings you appreciation for life itself?

Let me know, I would love to hear from you!

And, let me know if you need support with this gratitude, or in any aspect of your life. I offer Thai massages and also integrative somatic healing sessions where we move you in the direction of healing and change that you envision. 

Staying the look out for some holiday specials!!


In gratitude,


Breathe and Believe.