Cultivating Gratitude and Being of Service
Gratitude. It’s a feeling that runs deep in our bones and one that warms the skin and opens the heart. Gratitude is something we can cultivate through kind acts and positive intentions. When I work with new people in recovery, and even when I work with people who have been in recovery for a while, I ask them to write gratitude lists. We are faced with frustrating challenges, difficult people, illnesses, loss, sadness, and it’s easy to get lost in that dark, sticky stuff. Life can be difficult; it is less so when we can pay attention to the good in our lives.
So, the question becomes, how can we climb out of that dark hole? How can we cultivate a sense of feeling at peace? How can we pay attention the good in our lives?
For every negative thing we are confronted with, there are 3 positives waiting to be named. Here is a great opportunity to make a list. You may be surprised at what you are grateful for.
Be of service.
I am huge advocate for service work and getting into action. I believe that part of attaining freedom from our suffering involves putting our hands out to help those who are suffering more than we are and treating them as equals instead of as the “other.” I recently taught yoga to transitioning homeless women; it was a profound experience to be of service at this level. I was keenly aware of my own privilege and my position of power, and because of that awareness, I was able to teach from my heart and from a place of deep compassion. I was able to compassionately see these women as equal, worthy human beings who are deeply affected by addiction, poverty, and untreated mental illness. I held space for their fears, tears, laughter, and release. It was an honor. I taught them the power of the self-hug, a process that helps our bodies self-regulate by placing the hand on the heart for a minimum of 20 seconds.
I walked away from that experience feeling a deep sense of gratitude and awareness for what I have, and what I sometimes take for granted. I was humbled, and moved to tears by the sheer courage and willingness of these women to show up and to accept help. For this, I am grateful. My recovery and mental health depend on being of service and the cultivation of gratitude and compassion.
Being of service and cultivating gratitude is the work of the heart. The heart thrives when it is cracked open. I would rather have an open heart that gets pricked on occasion than a heart barricaded by barbed wire.