Gratitude in times of challenge

22 Nov

As we are approaching Thanksgiving i am rattled by mixed feelings. On one hand, there is so much i am grateful for. On the other, there is a sense of grief and devastation prompted by the biggest fire i have ever been close to.

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area we have not been able to freely enjoy what many of us take for granted: the air. For one and a half weeks the air was loaded with toxins and heavy particulate matter from the Paradise fire. We were advised to stay indoors and wear face masks when going outside. And in comparison we were the lucky ones. Those in Paradise lost their homes, their pets, or even their lives.

These past 10 days have been difficult. They were confrontational in a internal way.

In my coaching practice clients were talking about feeling depressed. It’s easy to be depressed when the sky is gray and smoggy, the air thick, and we cage ourselves in to protect our health. And all the while the fire continued to rage and burn everything in its path: woods, buildings, animals and people who are trapped. The situation was out of control and that made it so deeply unsettling. How can we be energetic and project positively into the future when there is no sense of safety, of refuge?

In the SoulCollage workshop this past weekend we made cards that reflect our inner devastation. How can it be possible that a tragedy of such magnitude would happen in California? If we here in beautiful, technologically advanced and wealthy California cannot be safe and protected, who is? Other cards expressed our longing for water, and with it the longing to be soothed and safe.

This year my gratitude list is long, but it is accompanied by a list of grievances. It is hard to live with uncertainty. It is hard to viscerally feel destruction while breathing, to know that the particles in the air that are hazardous for our health, burned something that was precious to somebody else. And it’s hard to look toward the future—a future that will likely bring more fires, more hurricanes, more horrors.

The underlying question, for me, is ‘How can we restore balance to this planet that is so out of balance?’ Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Successful planetary change must include all of us—necessitating an ubiquitous acknowledgement of global warming, and the commitment of all of us individually and as nations to make inconvenient changes.

If it was easy, we would have solved the problem decades ago. We have not. And while it’s easy to despair and be stifled by overwhelm in the face of such an unlikely collective effort, i am reminded of the notion that change starts within. To me, the new question is ‘How can i create harmony within while doing my part in creating harmony in my environment?’ And how can i calm myself when confronted with a sense of doom?’

Here is what i can do for myself:

1) Get enough sleep. Without it, i wrack my health and my capacity for strength and resilience.
2) Celebrate what i have. Focus on gratitude.
3) Strive to find the positive in a challenge.
4) Meditate daily. 20 min consistently is enough to make a difference for me.
5) Choose simple nurturing activities such as exercise, a walk, or connecting with a friend or loved one, or listening to uplifting music.

Gratitude is a fundamental pillar to happiness. In my list it is only preceded by the necessity of getting enough sleep. And, for most of us challenges to our inclination for gratitude are real, not just when the biggest fire in California’s know history rages. It is a year-round endeavor to keep our mind calm and our spirit turned upward.

This Thanksgiving we all are grateful that the fire is over. That the hurricane and tornado season is over. In California we are grateful that the rain just started, however late in the season. We are grateful for clean air to breathe.

And, as we are celebrating Thanksgiving i can’t help but turn to spirit and acknowledge our amazing ability to survive. As we recover from the shock and heal the trauma we can turn toward thriving again. This time, let’s consider the greater balance of nature and find ways to keep the earth’s balance intact. The earth provides everything we have.

I am grateful for this beautiful planet, and i am grateful to you for reading this.

Happy Thanksgiving!

© Eva Ruland, November 2018

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