“Thank you God for the world so sweet,
Thank you God for the food we eat,
Thank you God for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything”
With handkerchiefs laid on our desks, lunch boxes opened up, folded hands and eyes closed we used to offer this little prayer to God when I was in my school during the lunch break. It was a habit inculcated by our teachers and my group of friends followed it religiously beginning from standard one up until standard sixth or seventh. We were not monitored to do so but as kids we held on to everything our teachers used to tell us and followed it religiously. Gradually with time this practice got discontinued. As we advanced the classes the importance was laid more on our subject based learnings than on inculcating ‘good habits’ because we were expected to have ingrained them.
What was the purpose of making us thank God everyday?
I don’t think I had thought about it back then but now more than a decade later when I have discontinued many such practices that I have started to reflect upon it. I now believe that these small prayers were the seeds that were being sown to make us mindful of what we were doing. Whether it was the morning assembly, the lunch prayer or the one we said right before we dispersed for our homes, they all wanted us to be in the moment. The morning assembly was to make us aware that we were to begin our day of learning; the lunch prayer was to thank god for the food we were eating and the final prayer was to tell us that our day at school is over and we shall resume the next day. I remember in standard tenth my Hindi teacher had asked everyone in class to raise hands if we used to end our day at night by reflecting upon the day that had gone by and correcting our mistakes if any, I was sure that everyone will raise their hand but surprisingly except for me and two other students no one did. It’s sad that now even I am a part of that majority who didn’t raise their hand, when did this practices go out of my routine I am not even sure. It was a slow process I feel just like that lunch break prayer.
As a child I don’t think anyone of us thinks through it but I believe that these practices did make us more mindful back then and probably is one of the reasons that kids are more engaged and active with their work and in turn happy most of the times. As we advance in age and get involved with life we tend to focus less upon these small prayers of gratitude. Our prayers are reserved either for festive occasions or in dire need when we require God’s intervention to rescue us from a situation. In turn we reserve talking with God for certain occasions only and forget his omnipresence in our lives. We also tend to become less mindful of our day in general, we begin our days by switching off our alarms on our phones, checking messages and end our day by replying to messages, checking social media and setting the alarm for the next day. In between these mechanical events we forget to pause and reflect upon what we are to do during the day, our work also becomes a mechanical act and so does our meal times for we either complement it with tv or with our mobile phones.
I am trying to slowly get back on the track of gratitude so as to be more mindful and I believe it does work wonders. It’s a practice we all must cultivate to help our own selves to be more calm and in the moment . It will make us value the present moment rather than worry about the future ( just like we were during our school days).
These gratitude prayers are like alphabets and numbers we were taught in kindergarten, these are the stepping stones for further lessons. Alphabets help us form words, words help us form sentences and sentences help us tell stories. Similarly these prayers are the basics to help us stay mindful which eventually help us in keeping our mind and body healthy and happy. These prayers could be any kind : an old prayer,a song, a conversation with god or a nursery rhyme, anything as long as it makes you happy.
I would thus end by a gratitude prayer:
“Thank you God for all that grows
Thank you for the sky’s rainbow
Thank you for the stars that’s shine
Thank you for these friends of mine
Thank you for the moon and sun
Thank you god for all you’ve done ”