Gratitude - An Interview with David

David was contacted by Lauren Tober this past year and asked to participate in her project Capturing Gratitude. She then interviewed David for her project. Capturing Gratitude just completed a successful fundraising initiative on December 1 and is aiming to have the website live in the coming months. For more information about Capturing Gratitude and to register, please visit her site.

The team at AYP thought that it was a great time of year to share Lauren’s interview with David on the topic of Gratitude. We hope that you have had a great 2013 and we send you our best wishes for a Healthy and Happy New Year.


• David, in this moment, what are you grateful for?

In our practice of Ashtanga Yoga we stand on the mat at the beginning of each session and give thanks to those that walk the path before us. This is something I do also in my daily life. There are many things to be grateful for. My parents were my greatest teachers in life since they taught me the value of unconditional love. My brother introduced me to the ideas of yoga and healthy living. I met my teachers of Ashtanga Yoga in the 70's and they were a great influence on my life. I appreciate my dear wife and the love we share. I appreciate the breath I take and the air we all share on this planet since we are all truly connected through the breath. We do not breathe in a language or particular culture. We ride into this life on an inhale and depart on an exhale. Life exists within each breath we take. I am grateful for all of these things and more!

• What does gratitude mean to you, and how do you practice it in your everyday life?

I addressed this to some degree in my answer to the first question however gratitude must be expressed in actions and not simply words or intentions. Gratitude is more than attitude it is words and intention manifest in actions! The things I am grateful for I attempt to honor in my interactions with others and the world around me. When asked what his religion was Mahatma Gandhi answered that they need only live with him and see his actions, his speech, the food he ate and the clothes he wore in order to understand. I believe the same is true of our application of our feelings of gratitude. It must be passed along, shared and manifest in our actions and interactions.

• What piece of advice have you been given that you're grateful for?

To live with integrity! My parents showed this to me in their way of living and the way they treated their own children and other people in general. Rather than simply offering advice in words they showed me by their actions that we should not judge people by there appearance, their social status, sexual preference or any other external manifestations but rather by the quality of their character and actions. I am most grateful for their open-mindedness and loving characters. The advice they gave me was through the love they shared and not simply words spoken.

• Can you think of someone you haven't met, but you're grateful they exist (or existed) in the world? Tell me about them and why you're grateful.

I did not have the fortune of meeting my wife's parents since they passed away before we were together. I am so grateful for them for bringing their daughters into this world and for my great blessing to meet and marry one of them. From all of the stories I have heard from my wife and the photos she has shown they were truly remarkable people that gave so much so that their children could have a better future and instilled in them powerful qualities of internal strength of character, integrity and love! Had they not existed I would have never met my wife so for that I am eternally grateful. There are of course personalities currently residing on the planet and throughout history that have been instrumental in the development of art, music, literature, human-kindness, philanthropy, religion and on and on as well as many folks I have never heard of that do great work every day. I am grateful for all of those individuals that have lived supremely rich and full lives and positively impacted the world around them for the benefit of generations to come.

• What quality in yourself are you grateful for?

I am grateful for the quality of patience and perseverance. These are qualities I learned from my family and from the practice of yoga. Most things of value in life do not manifest instantly and so require initial motivation to pursue, patience to cultivate and persistence to maintain. This is true in so many areas of life from relationships to gardening to business and on and on. So I am grateful for patience. Though I must admit that it is not always present! I am still learning this trait!

• What does a day in the life of David Swenson look like?

I travel a lot in my teaching of yoga. So it depends on the day but there are many days that involve my moving through airports and riding on airplanes etc. When I am teaching I spend my day sharing what I have learned about yoga with others. I fit my personal practice in in the gaps of the day. I feel blessed to live the life that I have. Teaching and sharing is a very rewarding experience and am get to meet an incredible array of interesting and fascinating people from all walks of life and expanding around the globe since my travels take me to all areas of the globe. Many times my wife travels and teaches with me but sometimes she is working elsewhere and we call, skype, text or email each other throughout the day. Our connection is always present even when we are physically apart. When we are home together we love spending the simple moments of a day in each other’s company whether shopping for food or plants for our home or playing with our cat. My life is full yet it is also not a regulated schedule so it really depends on the day. A snap shot of my days would really be more like a movie than and snap shot!

• What advice do you have for someone wanting to introduce more gratitude into their lives?

When awakening in the morning take in a conscious breath and think of the simple things that we may all be grateful for. The fact that we are taking that breath to begin with! Then exhale any negative or unhealthy feelings that need to be released. In December 1999 there were many people around the world looking for something to unite people during the entry into the year 2000. I was interested in this also but wanted something that was truly and utterly universal that would not eliminate people of different religious faiths, cultures, languages and so forth. I came up with a concept of breath. The program was called Earth 2000 The First Breath! Breath unites us all. We all breathe the same air on this planet. It is a unifying element for all of humanity. We enter the world on an inhale and depart on an exhale. We do not breathe in a language. It is the same for all. When humans exhale the plants take that in and share with us oxygen so it unites us with nature. Animals are also breathing. So this simple act to me is a spiritual undertaking, to breathe with awareness and presence. So just before midnight on December 31, 1999 I asked anyone that wanted to participate to simply exhale just before midnight and in that simple act to release anything negative or painful from their being and at precisely midnight to draw in the first breath of a new day, a new beginning and new possibilities and truly a new birth. We have this opportunity every day of our life. To understand that we are all connected through this unifying act of breath. We are never truly alone. We are all connected through this breath on this planet. It connects us with generations past since they breathed these same oxygen molecules. It connects us with other people around the planet that are also breathing in this moment. It connects us with future generations that will in turn also share this same universal breath. So in my mind that is something we can all be grateful for! It is the starting point for all other things to manifest in our life. Take the first breath of gratitude.

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