“Gratitude is like breathing in – letting ourselves be touched by the goodness in others and in our world. Generosity is like breathing out – sensing our mutual belonging and offering our care” says author and meditation practitioner, Tara Brach, who offers many valuable talks and teachings on how we can awaken our natural capacities for gratitude and generosity. We may never know the impact of our own kindness on another, unless, or course, we tell each other. I am sharing a recent experience of my own to illustrate the vulnerability associated with both giving and receiving authentic gratitude.
Last week, I received a series of voice messages, out of the blue, that really warmed my heart and prompted the theme of this month’s article. Back in 2017 – 2018, I was involved in a transnational youth project called ‘Changing Minds’ with several community groups and schools, including Skibbereen Community School and The Aurelia Trust. The messages I received were from one of the teenage participants, now a young woman in her twenties. I listened, as she relayed to me how she felt my kindness and patience, as well as the values espoused by the youth project had influenced her life choices greatly and that she is now following a similar career pathway to mine and “trying to be in service for others and to put all of my heart in all I’m doing”.
The absolute generosity of her message moved me to warm, grateful tears, I could also hear the emotion in her voice, along with the vulnerability and the courage as she said, “Thank you, really, really, really thank you for that experience even though it was a long time ago, but I think it’s never too late to be grateful and to share your gratefulness to people who’ve really impacted you in your life, thank you”. It is not always so easy to send messages like this to another, yet how impactful they can be. I received these beautiful messages on a day when I had completely lost my voice and was self-isolating, unable to work while waiting on the results of a Covid test. These messages of gratitude humbled, encouraged and inspired me, on a day when it might have been easy to let my mind slide down the road of catastrophising. Instead, I chose to let the sentiment soak in and reflected on all the gifts that I was grateful for, inclining my mind towards all the good in that present moment rather than trying to control or predict what ‘might’ happen.
Finding ways of feeling or expressing gratitude and appreciation for when things are going well is an important skill that helps incline our hearts and minds towards all that is good. Even when we are struggling in our own lives, or when feeling grateful may be the furthest thing from our minds, it is worth digging deep. Research points overwhelmingly to the many benefits of practising gratitude for our very deepest well-being, showing that cultivating emotions like gratitude, kindness and compassion in our hearts and minds makes for a happier disposition.
Likewise, receiving gratitude sets off so many positive emotions in us and can have a knock-on, ripple effect. So, in turn, I am grateful to this wonderful young woman who took the time to contact me in such a meaningful and heartfelt way. And, like her, I am also grateful to be in a career of service and inspired to share this story and to say thanks to the many, many people who have helped me, and continue to help me on this trajectory. John O’ Donohue expresses my wish for everyone so much better than I ever could; “May the shelter and nourishment of all the good you have done, the love you have shown, the suffering you have carried, awaken around you to bless your life a thousand times.”
As our year draws to a close, despite all the ongoing challenges and continued uncertainty, can you still take a moment to reflect on what or who you are grateful for? Can you find a way of sharing this or letting them know what it is about them that you are grateful for? Maybe you can also reflect on what you are grateful for and appreciate in yourself?
If you need a little support in the lead up to Christmas, I am delighted to continue guiding online and in-person mindfulness drop-in sessions. Keep an eye on my facebook page, mindhaven or get in touch for dates and times over the holiday period.
Drop-in sessions at Myross Wood, Leap on Tuesday mornings from 10 -11am. €10.
Online meditation sessions via Zoom on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8pm, please do consider joining in, whether you have tried mindfulness meditation before or are new to it. These small group sessions are personal, down-to-earth, informal and donation based. Individual or group sessions are also available.
For more information on upcoming workshops and courses please like my Facebook page (Mindhaven) or feel free to get in touch by phone: 087 2700572 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org