The morning of Thanksgiving, my family went for a walk in the blue skies recently cleaned of smoke from the previous day's rain. I took deep breath after breath, so grateful for something as simple as air. It got me thinking about why gratitude often comes so easily after a loss.
From the Vedic perspective, everything is either coming together or dividing, unmanifesting or manifesting, uniting into one or diversifying into many. It is the Uni-verse, as in unity + diversity. According to the Vedas, the reason for the separation is for the joy of coming together again. That joy, that recognition of unity or oneness is love.
Basically, we need the contrast provided by separation to experience unity. Imagine a story in which all characters lived together and there was no conflict (separation), pretty boring for the reader and the characters involved. Now imagine a story in which two young people in love are separated by war only to find each other after a long journey, the gratitude and love for each other is much more strongly experienced in this scenario.
So how does this translate to our lives? We can cultivate gratitude by not expecting perfection, but realizing the little divisions are necessary for experiencing the beauty of life. We can also recognize that we all need some space on our own in order to enliven our relationships. And we can practice going without something we enjoy for a time in order to fully appreciate having it again.
This principle also applies to our meditation practice. Coming in and out of meditation is a uniting and separating process. When we go deep within ourselves we bring our awareness to more and more subtle strata, gently approaching that layer where everything is one. In that state, we experience unity with our highest selves so that when we come out of meditation, we are then able to experience that feeling of unity and love with everyone and everything in which we come in contact. We need to come out of the meditation in order to experience the joy the unity in meditation brings us.