There have been many highs and lows in this new normal that commenced. Many mental health experts talking about the importance of gratitude.
I have felt myself simmer to a max to the cusp of losing it so many times … to the point of reaching to my supports and voicing my struggle. At times I am reminded well you have so much why can’t you see that… others have less, others are starving, homeless etc. Yes I KNOW THIS. This for me is often followed by a massive shame spiral. Whats wrong with me. How can I struggle so hard when I have so many things that are good?
Why and how can we also flatten the hierarchy of pain in a conscious way that allows for all suffering to be seen and greeted with compassion?
Not only do I need my struggle to be met with compassion from others but as my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says “The answer is always compassion, first for self and then for others”.
I keep seeing patterns of someone expressing their suffering and then another suggesting that the suffering isn’t worthy of acknowledgment in light of the suffering of another.
I’d like to challenge this and suggest another model. Forced gratitude before self compassion misses a critical step in the process. True gratitude requires no effort… it flows in when the heart channel is open. The heart opens when there is tenderness acceptance and acknowledgement of the truth.
When I run with my two kids in the stroller and they are at ease my gratitude flows easily … the sweet little crocuses popping up through the earth stroke a deep chord of pleasure in my heart. When my almost 5yo is complaining and dragging his feet and I know this is the only activity we can do outside of the house for the whole day and my mental health is contingent on getting my heart rate up for a stretch my open heart closes… I miss the little flowers and my gratitude does not flow.
Forcing myself into gratitude before acknowledging where I am struggling is a violent act to my spirit that leaves me even more trapped and suffocated than the original injury.
I’ve been exploring what happens when I first give myself an opportunity to acknowledge I am frustrated, overwhelmed agitated etc. Greet that suffering kindly with its message and when that eases I can heal that suffering and then my heart will reopen and my gratitude will flow again.
I have heard Thich Nhat Hanh tell a story of how any animal in nature when injured will find a quiet place to rest until they are healed. They will not continue to move along with a wound.
What will it take to give ourselves permission to first move to compassion for self and then allow the gratitude to grow and flow in our heart because we feel at ease?
So if you have no bananas but you’re trying to be a responsible citizen and only shop every two weeks but its your 2yo’s fave food and they are losing their mind and you’re in a shame storm because its causing you so much grief perhaps there is space to give permission for this to be acknowledged as suffering (even if today millions of people are dying of starvation). Gratitude blooms like a flower only when the sun shines on it warmly. It can not be forced open… only the warm consistent presence of the sun can manifest this. The leap to gratitude can only come when suffering is met with compassion first.