§ We came to this world to LIVE OUT LOUD.

The Power of Gratitude

May 5, 2017

Today I am grateful for the POWER OF GRATITUDE. I am grateful that having a gratitude practice and focusing on what I am grateful for has helped me feel centered and hopeful (in the big, spiritual sense) at a time when such scary and crazy things are happening in the United States and around the world.

For the past 5 years, I have been living in Colombia, a nation that has endured about 50 years of ongoing armed conflict. According to the Borgen project, http://borgenproject.org/10-facts-colombian-refugees/, Colombia has the second largest number of internally displaced persons (6 million people) after Syria. I don’t know anybody here who has not been touched by the violence in some way and most people I know and am friends with are poly-traumatized, having endured kidnappings (of themselves or loved ones), murders of loved ones, rape, sexual abuse, domestic violence, forced evacuations from their homes, fleeing in the middle of the night, etc.

And yet, Colombia is repeatedly named the Happiest Country in the World by the Gallup Poll. That means that year after year, Colombians rate themselves as happy more than the citizens of any other nation on Earth.

I have spent a lot of time pondering this over the years and I could probably write a book about it at this point. But in summary, I think the Colombian ability to be happy in highly adverse circumstances comes down to 2 things:

  • The value placed on family and human warmth. They don’t just talk about it. They live it. Extended families are intimately involved in each other’s lives on a daily basis and there is a real sense of belonging to a tribe. Needing to take your mother to the doctor is a perfectly valid excuse for missing work. People greet me with a warm smile, a hug (the real kind!) and a kiss. They seem genuinely happy to see me. It feels great! We are social creatures and we all need to belong.
  • In my observations, Colombians look for reasons to be happy, enjoy every moment they can, and are grateful for whatever good comes their way. They expect life to be difficult and aren’t surprised when it is. They don’t spend much time looking for somebody to blame. (It’s usually the government anyway.) They just find a way to improve whatever circumstances they are in and look to make the most out of any situation. And they enjoy the simplest things to the maximum – a perfectly ripe avocado will get everyone exclaiming how exquisite it is, a picnic in a park on a sunny day will elicit much joy, a simple gesture of affection or the simplest gift is treated like a treasure and highly appreciated. In short, they have deep gratitude for the simple and not-so-simple pleasures of life.

Why do I write all this right now?

Because a grammar school friend whom I haven’t spoken to since high school commented on my recent gratitude post by asking if I had donated to Syrian refugees. He later told me that he was just curious.

But here is what I read when I saw this comment, “ Seriously, you are going on and on about how great your life is and how much support you have when people are suffering?”

And I went straight to guilt and shame.

Guilt said, “Are you doing enough? Sure you volunteer your time, energy and money to causes you believe in. You help, with both money and time, at a local program for kids whose families are refugees from Colombia’s conflict. Your 14-year-old runs a program all by herself for 20 refugee kids every week, teaching them singing, music, dance. You teach non-violent parenting and have formed women’s empowerment groups. But is that enough? There is so much more that needs to be done.”

And then Shame chimed in, “You should be ashamed of yourself! Bragging about how great your life is while people are suffering. You really sound like an idiot! You don’t deserve to have such a great life anyway! What made you any more deserving than all these other people? You were a refugee yourself (from the former Soviet Union). And now you need a gratitude practice to appreciate your amazing life when many people would be happy with a hunk of bread and a safe place to call home.”

Wow! I haven’t heard from Shame like that in many, many years. I have done tons of personal growth work over the past 20 years, healing all kinds of trauma and Shame rarely visits me anymore. Yet here it was! And it felt like crap!

The good news is that I quickly identified both Guilt and Shame and did some EFT on them. (For those who aren’t familiar with the Emotional Freedom Technique, look it up. It’s the most powerful technique I have found to transform fear, shame, negative thoughts, pretty much anything you don’t want. And it often takes just 5 to 10 minutes to do it.)

And here’s what I came up with in 5 minutes:

  • Guilt is an emotion that’s useful. It lets us examine where our actions are out of alignment with our values. So in this case, could I do more? Yes! I can donate more, volunteer more, inform myself even more about what’s going on. And I’m committing to doing all three.
  • Shame, on the other hand, is not helpful. It comes from old wounds and traumas and basically tells us that we are bad, horrible people. Shame needs to be transformed ASAP before it does damage.

Luckily, I was able to do that quickly with EFT and see that I do deserve to live an amazing life. EVERYBODY deserves to live an amazing life! I worked damned hard to create my life. I don’t have to hide how grateful I am for it! I should sing praises to it. I have been given many gifts by the Universe and there is no better way to say thank you than to be grateful. And to inspire others to live their best life! Gratitude and happiness are contagious. If Colombians can consider themselves to be the Happiest People on our planet despite the years of armed conflict, who am I to not believe that we can create our own happiness under any circumstances? That we can’t be grateful, no matter what?

So with Shame quickly kicked to the curb, I am back to feeling GRATITUDE for everything in my life – the abundance, the simple things, the people who surround me, the privilege of living in Colombia, the hard stuff that forces me to grow and remain humble, people whose comments trigger me (because they force me to grow). And most of all, I am grateful for the power of GRATITUDE to connect me to the sacred and the beautiful in life, even when it’s not pretty all the time.

If you have gotten this far, thank you so much for reading. I am honored and grateful for your interest.



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