Gratitude as a Life Line
Aloha and Happy New Year! I pulled the following commentary from a blog-post-related dialog and expanded on the answer as the content seemed so relevant that I wanted to move it to the front of the discussion rather than only tucked away for those diving deeper into the blog comments. The question was a response to my article on affirmations.
I am struggling with resistance. So much has been so difficult for so long – and gone so wrong… even what appeared to be a wonderful opportunity to live and work abroad has turned terribly sour. So much pain has been brought on by circumstances beyond my control that I cannot make myself believe that I can co-create anything desirable/meaningful in my life. I find myself wanting to hang onto my unbelief and unhappiness because it is grief over lost dreams and fouled plans. (I now deeply understand the title of the book Don’t Take My Grief Away.) I can’t fathom any lessons, trust the Spirit, or be fearless and hopeful. I have learned it is possible to be so physically, emotionally, and spiritually broken that affirmations are exercises in futility, empty and without merit. This challenges those around me who continue to manifest their dreams and desires. They try to force me to be positive, and because I cannot, they are dismissive. They are disappointed in my crisis of faith, because they continue to manifest, so it must be true. Well, it’s not true for me. And I, who have supported others through crises in faith, have no support in my own. It makes me feel even more despairing, because I am not receiving much compassion. I teach compassion, above all, so I feel like a failure.
Your message has been weighing heavy on my heart because I know how hard it is when it seems like every way you turn you hit a dead end. I am so sorry you have been having such a hard time.One of the things I coach all my clients on is that when we fall into the hole of despair or depression or when circumstances push us into the hole, while it is fine to visit the land of grief and despair, it is rarely if ever a good idea to take up real estate there.
A few years ago, when both my mom and my brother died, I too was in despair. I was still creative and involved but my heart felt dead. I knew intellectually that I loved the people around me, but I could not feel it.
At one point, I sought counsel with an intuitive and he said something to the effect of this: “You are at a point where you can continue as you are and look back and remember when you were somebody, or you can make new choices and be somebody again. It is up to you. It is your choice.” This hit me like a ton of bricks because I suddenly realized that I took up the real estate in my despair and grief. And I also realized that while I may not be able to make every dream come true or accomplish everything I want, I do have a choice about how I live. I realized I had no power to stop the people I loved from dying or certain circumstances from happening, but I did have the opportunity to switch my attention to what I was grateful for and build on that.
On New Years Eve of 2009/2010, my first thought was how sucky the first decade had been because in “automatic pilot mode” (aka unconscious/asleep, in the hole) all I could see looking back were the losses. But then I decided to pull out my personal growth tool belt, make a new choice, and give equal time to what had been good in the first 10 years of the century. I was shocked as I listed the birth of seven books, a niece, a granddaughter, the creation of The Sacred Garden on Maui, moving to my dream home, a deepening of my relationship with my remaining family members…. The list of good was not only long, but also deep in meaning.
When my mom got sick, she had ALS and lost the ability to use one body part after the next, starting with her tongue, then her legs, then her hands, until she was totally paralyzed. This experience taught me so much about gratitude. I had never thanked my tongue for all it did to support me, or my bowels for that matter. When you really get into the hole of despair, grab the line of gratitude for what you DO have, and climb your way out.
While I recognize that sometimes we need to process our grief and disappointment for a period of time, it is critical that we shift at some point into doing something different. My article in the March/April issue of Spirituality and Health will be addressing this more, but it is key to learn to disempower the events that happen and empower the way we respond to them. It is not what happens to us, or what someone else says that makes us feel the way we do. It is how we respond to what happens to us and to what people say and act that causes us to feel the way we do. It isn’t what other people think of us; it is what WE think of ourselves that impacts our emotional state.
My invitation to you should you desire, is not to “think positive” but choose positive and take positive action steps. Keep taking small baby steps in the direction you want to go. Rather than seeking the Divine or blessings…SEE the Divine and blessings all around you. Rather than simply “thinking positive," choose to align your thoughts and choices with what you are trying to create. I have found that affirmations are not magical thinking; they are reminders and they do not work without action. We need to take positive action steps in the direction we want to go.
Begin noticing what your self-talk is telling you. When you are reaffirming the negative in life and in yourself, stop, take a deep breath and look for a new way to respond to the negative things that happen. Look for what you are grateful for. Look for what is good in the circumstance, in others and in yourself.
In my experience, if I am not acknowledging and appreciating the good aspects of my self or my life, it doesn’t matter if the people around me are telling me I am wonderful because I won’t believe them. It all starts with what we are telling ourselves. This is where a spiritual practice that reinforces your divine essence and assists you in accessing the Divine—through your inner wisdom, intuition, strength, creativity, and compassion—will help you tremendously.
When something happens to me or someone does something that I do not like, I meditate on the question, “How is this a blessing to me?” and I can ALWAYS find an answer.
As you move forward into the New Year, I encourage you to be compassionate to yourself and grab onto the line of gratitude to get you out of the hole.
Blessings to you for a New Year, rich and deep, with ease and grace!
With Aloha, Eve