Many years ago I had a transformative experience with thankfulness, and I have never forgotten the physical sensation I encountered then.
I had been dealing with about three years of intense tumult during which my marriage ended, I gave up my job to study, moved home 3 times, survived the demise of another huge relationship, and was desperately short of money to boot! Through a friend-of-a-friend, I was introduced to a woman who happened to be looking for a housemate in the beautiful southern vales. I wasn’t keen on living away from the city due to job prospects etc, but I was in a bit of a bind. I needed a place for me and my faithful dog Buffy, and I needed it immediately due to the share house I lived in coming to an end in another week’s time.
So I moved and settled into a brand new experience, unexpected and so welcome. Mikaela became, very quickly, a wonderful and close friend. The little old house we shared nestled into vineyards on three sides, and was backed by a tall stand of blue gums, some pine trees, and a meandering creek bed. The sense of beauty and peace pervaded everything, as well as a new sense of home again. Bits of work started coming my way. Friendship. Laughter. Light after a long period of darkness.
One evening, just on dusk with the birds singing their goodnights and settling in the trees, the sun leaving a rose-gold glow over the western hillside, I took my lovely dog for a quiet walk. The air was fresh and fragrant and I was reflecting on how different things felt now, after only six months in this new place. I looked up at the sky to see the first stars appearing and suddenly felt such an enormous welling up of thankfulness that it felt as if my heart had doubled in size. Across the back of my shoulder blades I felt a spreading warmth and tingling. Thank you! – my whole soul was singing – thank you! Thank you!
Since that time I have no doubt that the spirit of thankfulness is a powerful shifter of energy and in essence, an offering from my heart. When I am feeling overwhelmed by my mind’s various wanderings, or something has happened that I perceive has hurt me in some way, or I’m just feeling a bit blue, I will often sit quietly and take my time to let a few thoughts arise as to the wonderful things in my life. I let my heart fill with those images of people/places/things that I have, and gradually that sensation of spreading tingling across my back occurs, I can feel my heart fill and open and ‘Thanks’ comes from that deep place within. My energy will invariably shift into a lighter and more energetic place, even though it doesn’t necessarily ‘fix’ the problem (damn, I still have to pay for that speeding ticket!). ‘Bad’ things happen, things don’t go ‘right’ all the time… but I can still offer those moments of thanks which I feel plugs me right into the energy and (sometimes mysterious) flow of life.
Martin Seligman is an author I’ve followed a bit over the past few years, and his book “Flourish” is a wonderful exploration as to what it is that makes us happy. Gratitude and thankfulness feature heavily. If you’d like to try some simple exercises that are designed to tune into this state of mind, go to https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/02/18/martin-seligman-gratitude-visit-three-blessings/ The exercises are fun to do as well!