We’ve all heard about being grateful for the good things in our lives. I realised how lucky we are to have clean running water in our homes, for example, when I watched a video recently about those who don’t; and how disease and suffering can so easily be the result of having to drink filthy water.
The reason I got to thinking about gratitude is this: when lockdown started in March, as a yoga teacher and workshop facilitator I was thrown into the deep end with zoom classes and sessions. It was overwhelming, a lot to learn and adapt to, all at once, and I lost around a third of my regular students who didn’t want to take classes online, which was a bit scary.
After lockdown (1) I realised I could run my sessions from anywhere…so I went for 2½ months to volunteer on a smallholding near Salisbury, working on the land and with the animals around my yoga session times. I had a whole new experience that I could never have had otherwise.
I felt lucky that I could be so flexible and if not for lockdown I never would have put all my classes online. Even now that I’m back in the Stourbridge area where I hope to resume as soon as its sensible to teach again in person, I still have the freedom to work online from anywhere – all I need is a big enough room and a good internet connection! Gratitude can be an obvious response when good happening from difficult circumstances is easy to see.
But more than that. I feel it’s also so relevant for my inner health and growth, to look for gratitude for the less obvious outcomes, for the things that are still difficult or painful in my life. What hidden gem, what nugget of truth can I winnow from the struggles, that I might keep meeting in life again and again until I take in the truth of what is being offered to me?
For example, I’ve always found it hard to notice and stand up for my needs with others, particularly men. So, of course, when I was volunteering at the smallholding I mentioned above, I had to contend with a particularly complicated host who didn’t seem to realise that his volunteers were human beings, more than just another pair of hands. Diff-i-cult!!!
Did we get there in the end? No - I left instead. But it gave me a whole new perspective to focus on and I realise I have work to do in this area that I really want to understand and work through, growing myself beyond that old habit of not noticing I have needs in my default response to others.
So I can genuinely ask, how has this difficult experience happened for me, rather than to me?
In particular, of course, this year with Covid has changed so much in our lives in so many different ways, causing real hardship, anxiety and unimagined suffering and worry. But even now, there can be the small and hidden beginning of a whole new, happier, more connected future waiting for you patiently to be uncovered and embodied. Perhaps you have already experienced this in big or small ways, or you have a glimmer of a feeling - how this time could lead to your growth and freeing up of something.
Katherine Woodward Thomas, best-selling author and therapist says: This is what will ripen us into the people we were born to become, and enable us to realize our higher potentials in life and in love. How can I turn these difficulties into gifts of clarity, new ways of being, growth, moving out of the old unhelpful habits?