GRATITUDE BEYOND THE FLUFF; A PRACTICE TO STRENGTHEN MENTAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING

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I decided to use my 20 minutes of morning meditation for an inspired gratitude practice to keep in theme with Thanksgiving this week.  To my surprise, what I found as I traversed the most significant and emotional moments of my life in my mind - one by one - was a reservoir of genuine understanding, forgiveness, and appreciation towards their essential place in my own growth and development.  

Some of the moments were easier to seal in with unconditional love, such as when I was a young girl living in the wilderness, and at boarding school and beyond.  I could see that girl’s courage, braving the unknown in the middle of the wintery Blue Ridge Mountains at age 16, under the care of complete strangers, yet putting one foot forward in front of the other with strength and grace.  

I could see the beauty in her vulnerability at the Emotional Growth Boarding School in Virginia where she completed her high school career.  Here, fear did not stop her from surrendering to the process of individual therapy, group therapy, and workshop intensives. I witnessed from this vantage point the way she let her heart crack wide open to her peers and teachers and therapists; the way she was open to excavating shut-off places where she needed to recover and discover herself from the inside out.  Or how she was after that intense experience, left with the mighty task of integrating this emotional “schooling” with “the real world” and relationships.  

I found compassion for the contrast of her experience at Skidmore College.  I saw the confused young girl still wanting desperately to be normal and fit in, who arrived in 2010 with an unavoidable “super conscious” that had been cultivated through all of the emotional work and intelligence garnered during her adolescent years.  This fast forwarded straight to the woman I embodied 4 years later, beaming on stage presenting her Senior Thesis on “The Subtle Body in Tibetan Buddhist Enlightenment” in front of an audience of 50 people; completely immersed in her passion and inspired to transmute all of the pain and adversity into wisdom learned and shared with others.  

And some of the moments were more difficult to move beyond the hurt in my heart.  All of the toxic and unsupportive romantic relationships I threw myself into, where I would purposefully allow people into my life who were wounded, users, and emotionally abusive to prove over and over again just how unlovable I truly was.  I saw their faces, felt the denseness of the pain that had been caused still left unhealed, and allowed it to just be that way.

After running through all of those experiences in my mind, processing their residual effects on my mind and body, I arrived at a deep place of gratitude within myself, a deep recognition that every single one of those major moments - even the ones that were denser and deeper and still unresolved - had contributed piece by piece to me becoming the woman I am today.  That I, as the healthy, passionate, empowered woman I am now, LOVE my life and love all of those moments for bringing me to this very moment and place where I am right now.

I realized that when we practice gratitude, it doesn’t mean we feign a sense of love for the pain and challenges we’ve experienced - we come to a deep sense of appreciation for their role in making us exactly who we are today.  That’s the beauty of it.

 

GRATITUDE PRACTICE:

  1. Find a comfortable seat with a journal and pen
  2. Begin to take some deep breaths
  3. Close your eyes and bring to mind the most formative moments of your life
  4. Bring into mind the sensations in your body around those moments
  5. Pause and see yourself from the vantage point of who you are now, recognizing the importance of that moment in your growth and development
  6. Pause on the moments that feel denser, more emotional, and like there is still work to do to heal
  7. Journal about the experience, focusing on the moments where more healing is needed

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  • This is a beautiful piece of writing and ones that inspires me to take the time to reflect in the same manner, to look at my life from a wider perspective. I can relate to your reference of having an unavoidable “super conscious.” I also have taken years to do inner emotional work and feel it has left me with a sense of awareness of myself/situations that I am still learning how to harness and use for my benefit. Thank you for sharing and inspiring me! ~Cathleen

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