Yoga. Sound Healing. Angelic Reiki®. Well-being.
We live in a society that exalts the idea of the individual ‘making it’ on her or his own. The story of someone coming from ‘nothing’ and ‘making something’ of themselves, achieving their triumphs ‘by themselves’, is used as the definitive example of success in countless films, tv programmes, books and media stories.
This individualistic mind-set, or pressure to feel you have to do everything on your own, can be hugely counter-productive in actually achieving your goals and dreams, and indeed to living a life of contentment.
The truth is, no matter how much work you’ve done, how much acclaim you’ve achieved, how much success (however you define success) you’ve gained, your place has been given to you by countless people.
“When we become more fully aware that our success is due in large measure to the loyalty, helpfulness, and encouragement we have received from others, our desire grows to pass on similar gifts. Gratitude spurs us on to prove ourselves worthy of what others have done for us. The spirit of gratitude is a powerful energizer.”
Wilferd A. Peterson
We were brought into this world by a mother and a father. Their union gave us life. Whether you are, like me, lucky enough to have two parents who love you dearly and would do anything for you or whether you have parents that shirked the privilege to be your initial loving guides, they are still the ones who gave us entryway into this life. For this, we can feel gratitude and give them thanks.
Most of us here in the western world are lucky enough to go to school. We all get to learn and are encouraged to be curious and go discover more about the world around us.
In my travels over the last few years I have realised just how amazing my education is, how much the Irish schooling system I was in encouraged me to think critically and for myself. Yes, like in every system, there are flaws but I got a well-rounded and varied education. I know how to look at ‘facts’ and discern the reality in them. To not take statements at face-value. I got to learn from some absolutely incredible teachers who cared about me and a few hundred other students, and who took the time to be there for all of us.
We can all be grateful to the teachers we had. And yes, even the ones who weren’t the kindest or the ‘best’, teach a lot!
Every friend, whether the friendship has lasted a bus journey or a lifetime, has contributed to our lives in some way. Each and every interaction with another impacts our lives, but especially those we count as a friend- every relationship- has contributed to our lives in a myriad of ways.
Perhaps a friend lends a shoulder to cry on, gives words of support or comfort, acts as a mirror to our behaviour showing us where we could improve, is a laughing partner….whatever their contribution, it is immense and is something to be grateful for.
There are a multitude of people who help us in our lives- there are those we call family and friends who do it through support and kindness; those we see as teachers who do it through challenging us keeping our highest benefit in mind; and there are also those who challenge us through ‘negative’ behaviour, seemingly causing upsets and hurt on our journey.
The fact is each of these people, whether we perceive their contribution as positive or not, deserves our gratitude. Their interactions have contributed to who and where we are today.
“To live a life of gratitude is to open our eyes to the countless ways in which we are supported by the world around us. Such a life provides less space for our suffering because our attention is more balanced. We are more often occupied with noticing what we are given, thanking those who have helped us, and repaying the world in some concrete way for what we are receiving.”
In realising and acknowledging all the people who have helped us get to the point we are currently at, we foster a deep appreciation for our place in the world. We get to feel how many people have taken the time to touch our lives, to send us support and love. We get to feel how interconnected our lives are and that we are all part of the whole. This gives us the impetus to return that support outwards to those around us.
The following exercise is one I do a few times a year. It requires setting aside at least an hour to do:
In this space, write a letter to the person, thanking them for being in your life. Mention all the things that came to mind during the meditation. Be open and honest. Remember how the experience during the meditation made you feel. Communicate to them how much you value their presence in your life.
You can post the letter or keep it in your journal. Either way, you are putting those positive vibes out there and they will feel your shift towards them next time they see you.
Hold on to the positive feeling you are left with throughout your day!!
Another practice is to keep a gratitude journal. There are lots of ways you could do this, the following is an idea to get you started if you are unsure how to begin:
Gratitude Journal Practice
Write ‘Support’, ‘Positive Challenge’ and ‘Negative Challenge’ at the top of three different sheets of paper
On the ‘Support’ page, write all the people in your life who give you unconditional support. These are your family and friends who want you to do well without any competition or ulterior motives. These are the people who tell you how amazing you are- even when you know you are not being truly amazing in that moment!
On the ‘Positive Challenge’ page, write all the people in your life who teach you things. These will include literal teachers of various subjects- you could perhaps include authors or famous personalities in whatever area you engage in- and also the friends who instead of just saying how amazing you are, will say you are amazing but you could work on this… They are the people who encourage you to grow, who push you to learn more and to move outside of your comfort zone.
On the ‘Negative Challenge’ page, write all the people in your life who have seemingly derailed your plans. These are the people who can’t see your true potential. They are the ones you perceive as not fulfilling commitments to you in teaching or who say things that negatively affect your confidence.
While I foster the idea within- and encourage everyone to do the same- that we are the only ones responsible for our thoughts and feelings, the fact is we are all negatively affected by comments and actions of others at some point. In order to grow, we need to be truly honest with ourselves about this. If you perceive there is someone in your life who causes road blocks for you in a negative way, this is their column!
And of course, the same people may be in more than one column- or the columns can be blurred at times! The headings are just a tool to get you started. If these headings don’t ring true for you, use different ones.
Once the lists are done, write ‘Reasons To Be Grateful For’ at the top of a fourth page. Write the name of the first person down and beside their name, write three things to be thankful to them for. Continue on through your list of people. This could be as simple as-
Regina- she gave birth to me, she loves me unconditionally, she is always ready to have “laugh so hard we cry” laughter with me
Eddie- he gave me life, he loves me unconditionally, he treats me as his equal
Ian- he challenges me to be better in every part of my life, he is always there to talk to and support me, he gets me
When you do this exercise, a multitude of other reasons to be thankful for these people will flood your mind. That feeling is an overwhelming privilege. It has made me so much more aware of all the love, support and encouragement I have in my life. And the third column always proves to be a great lesson in perspective and in acknowledging all gifts brought my way- even if I couldn’t see the gift in it at the time.
Since my first gratitude journalling experience, each person in my life now has a page- some have a few pages- dedicated to the things I am thankful to them for. When I do a check-in, I add three more things to their section. It enables me to stay grateful and aware of the various helping hands that contribute to my wonderful life.
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
We never achieve anything alone. This fact does not lessen our achievements, they are still our own, but I feel we need to acknowledge they are not ours alone.
Fostering gratitude keeps you humble, it allows you to recognise all those who have helped you get where you are. In my experience, it brings more positivity and joy into your life and so into the lives of those around you.
I hope you have all found the perfect tool to practice gratitude daily, either from my list last week or from somewhere else, and I urge you to try one of the above exercises for a more in-depth look at the concept of practicing gratitude.
With love and light,
This week’s pic was taken by Eddie Kilty- thank you for the use of it!