KAREN MALONEY on how practicing gratitude and giving thanks became the most important part of her day …
“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.” Rumi
Was the great Sufi poet Rumi onto something with this statement? My definitive answer is yes. Let me shed some light on its magic.
A little over three years ago, my world as I knew it collapsed. The ground was pulled from beneath me. I was sideswiped by life and thought there was no way back, no way I could ever pick myself up and no way I could rebuild my life. It sounds dramatic I know (even to me) but it’s exactly how I felt at the time.
I had received an email from my boyfriend at the time (the man I thought I was going to marry) saying he was breaking up with me. To this day I haven’t heard from him since. He disconnected his phone, deactivated his Facebook, emails went unanswered and I had no way of contacting him.
We were living abroad at the time but I was at home in Ireland for a visit when he sent the email. Not only did I lose my relationship, I also lost all my possessions, everything I owned at the time. He wasn’t from Ireland and in the email he told me he had gone back to his home country and would have my stuff shipped back. Returning to where we were living never even entered my mind at the time. Needless to say, nothing ever arrived back.
Those first few days were a haze, a mess, a tornado of tears, confusion, hysterics, floods of questions and a constant replaying of every scenario in my mind, looking for clues and hints as to what had just happened.
After spending several days like this, something happened. In the midst of another crying fit, out of nowhere, an immense calm and serenity came over me. My tears stopped flowing, my sobs and sniffles were silent and I heard a voice say to me, “Okay Karen, you have two choices here – stay exactly as you are, being miserable, crying all day, driving yourself insane with a million and one questions and missing out on your life OR you can accept this as your reality and start to rebuild your life.”
Instantly the penny dropped. It hadn’t occurred to me before but suddenly I realised accepting what had happened was my only choice if I wanted to move forward. I couldn’t continue the way I was; I was driving myself insane and the fear and pain was getting to be too much. It was an instant decision. But that didn’t mean that everything was smooth sailing from then on or that I had denied what had happened. It was actually quite the opposite – once I accepted it as my reality, I managed to gain some space and separation from the event. Instead of it being all consuming, every second of the day, I could witness when the pangs of fear and panic took over. Acceptance, it would seem, is the first step.
When these pangs took over, they really took over. I was gripped by the deepest fears; I was writing myself off at the ripe old age of 33, telling myself I had no time to ever rebuild my life, meet someone else, get married, have a family, recover financially and so on. During one of these episodes, that same voice came back again and told me to put my hands on my heart and start giving thanks. I didn’t know what I was doing but I followed it. I listened and every time one of these episodes happened, I repeated these steps, over and over again. Some days I felt like I was doing it every minute, other days every hour and other days perhaps just once a day. But every single time that fear took over, I switched into gratitude, and a number of incredible things started to happen.
Firstly, when I placed my hands on my heart, all my awareness went there and I was pulled from living an imagined scenario in my head, to being right in the moment. I would look around me wherever I was and start giving thanks for everything I could see (a cup, a flower, the table, floor, walls, food…it didn’t matter what it was), all I had to do was give thanks. With time, these became moments of complete serenity and bliss. With this heartfelt presence and unending gratitude, there was no way I could feel the pain of the past. It just didn’t exist. There was no way I could be angry or resentful or focus on what I didn’t have, because there was so much to be thankful for all around me. I could see that despite what had happened, I was actually okay.
Still to this day, gratitude is one of my constant daily practices. By focusing on the abundance all around me (the more seemingly trivial, the better), I’m fully conscious to the now – the only time that exists!
This daily practice has opened a space where I’m an observer of my life. It allows me to see that we are not our emotions and we are not our mind. We have the power to control our mind and our emotions but we have to be fully awake and conscious in order to do so. When we are all consumed by our emotions, it is very difficult to see this differentiation, but it is up to us to consciously make this shift. Now I’ve learnt that gratitude is the powerful tool that can help us to do it.
At the time, I had no idea of the power of gratitude. I thought in order to be grateful I had to get something or achieve something. I had to feel worthy or something special had to happen. I was so blind to its magic.
Life will always throw us curveballs. Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. Gratitude is the superpower that helped me to sit with the pain, and transcend the suffering. Our emotions are transient; they ebb and flow. They are our personal feedback system pinpointing where we’re at. When we deny or stuff them down, suffering arises and manifests throughout our lives.
What happens to us may not be our fault, but our healing is our responsibility. The choice is always ours. Blame is futile – acceptance and gratitude are the way forward. They work to liberate us from whatever is trying to hold us down.
Karen Maloney is a Certified Strategic Intervention Life Coach, NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) Practitioner, and Reiki & Seichem Healer. www.karenmaloneywellbeing.com
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