Grief and gratitude are kindred souls,
each pointing to the beauty
of what is transient and given to us by grace. - Patricia Campbell Carlson
There were several books that profoundly shaped me in the early years after my mother’s death, all having to do with the power of myth and story. First, I read Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I followed that quickly with Iron John by Robert Bly. These two books are parallel twins for women and men, analyzing the power of the fundamental journey “into the woods” of crisis and then back, changed, to everyday living. These led me to Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth and the work of Carl Jung for further understanding of the power of archetypal myth in our psyches. I deeply believe that these stories, even the fairy stories we read as children, have power to help us process the events and crises of living. They resonate so deeply in our collective soul that they have rested there for hundreds of years. The books I read helped me heal and to recognize that we go back into the wilderness over and over in our lifetime, sometimes alone, sometimes as a culture.
Right now, our collective fears and grief feel overwhelming. We are being led to face our shadows as both individuals and a culture. We must learn to grieve together for our pain and for the pain of the planet. There is no way out of this path other than to go through the wilderness it opens for us. We find ourselves in the middle of the woods, without a clear path to get out. We are living in the middle of a classic hero’s tale.
How will we get out of the woods?
What magic will we take back with us upon our return?
What lessons will we learn?
Right now, start by being grateful for your lungs. How many breaths have you taken over your lifetime? Have you thanked your lungs today?
If you’re interested in making gratitude part of your daily practice, I’d point you in the direction of Brother David Steindl-Rast’s work at gratefulness.org. To quote from David Steindl-Rast’s TED Talk: “If you’re grateful, you’re not fearful. If you’re not fearful, you’re not violent. If you are not fearful, you act out of a sense of enough and not out of a sense of scarcity. You’re willing to share.”
Gratitude tempers grief into something positive and useful. Gratitude allows us to see beauty despite fear. Gratitude opens our hearts to grace.
What are you grateful for today?
- Make a list of at least 10 things you find yourself grateful for right now.
- Read your list aloud, slowly, pausing after each item.
- Take in the gratefulness you feel before moving on to the next.
When you finish, look around and see the world you’re living in.
Allow yourself to feel surrounded by grace.