“At its heart, grace is gratitude for all that is. Gratitude naturally results when you become aware of the events, processes, and coincidences that must happen to support your life. It is the realization that trillions of cells in your body all coordinate to give you life. Grace is gratitude for our blessings, despite our circumstances. Grace is gratitude for the gift of a blade of grass, the joy of a child, and the existence of the universe.” www.artofgrace.org
Cyclone Winston has delivered the theme for this month’s newsletter: Grace and Gratitude. Surprised?
February’s newsletter was about hydration. In it I invited you to reflect on water from four different perspectives – mind, body, soul and life. This month continues the theme from a different personal angle. But first a bit of background.
Cyclone Winston’s fury wreaked havoc on the Fijian islands. The devastation has been severe. Torrential rain has added further damage to already decimated homes and villages. It has touched our family in a very personal way. Our son’s partner, Shalini, was born in Ba on the main Fijian island of Viti Levu, one of the more heavily hit areas. She still has family living there “ …they raised me as a child. The house which got destroyed was the house where I grew up with my family. “ Being so far away is very difficult at times like this. The most practical and best help she could organise was fundraising through social media.
It is a heartfelt and natural response for people to reach out and offer help to those in desperate need. Our local newspaper, The Advertiser, published a very interesting article by Peter Walton, Director of International Programs at Australian Red Cross on 24th Feb. In it he outlines the problems and logistics well intentioned donations of goods creates. “The ugly truth is, a box of second-hand clothes or kitchen supplies or old shoes is unlikely to reach that family in need.” These kinds of donations, he urges, are best given to local charities. Here’s some examples of what he refers to :
- Post Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu – hundreds of boxes are still sitting on the docks because no one has paid the fees to process or distribute them. It is costing the government millions in storage fees and the goods may end up as landfill. Money that could be better used to provide relief aid.
- The sheer volume of processing donated goods takes manpower away from organising essential relief items like tarpaulins, water purification equipment, medicine.
- Some years ago Samoans were sent shipping containers of bras and high heeled shoes after a cyclone! Eventually they were distributed to a remote island where the women used the bras to carry coconuts.
He concludes by saying “ If you want to help Fiji here and now, the most effective way is with a monetary donation that will be translated into the most appropriate type of support based on local need. It will help the country get what it needs, when it’s most needed. It saves money and prevents waste.” It makes so much sense when you stop to think about it.
Let’s get back to this month’s theme of Grace and Gratitude.
“Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.”(John Stott)
“Grace is the permanent climate of divine kindness; the perennial infusion of springtime into the winter of bleakness.” (John O’Donohue)
Unearned. Unmerited. Freely given. This is Grace. Grace is mystical, mysterious, a powerful Force that taps into the heart and Soul. Our lives are all the richer for it. Experiencing moments of Grace makes us grateful. It inspires us to reach out to others in kind to share. Grace holds hands with Gratitude.
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” (Melody Beattie)
“Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.” (John Wooden)
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” (A A Milne, Winnie the Pooh)
Author and anthropologist, Angeles Arrien, in her book Living in Gratitude, identifies 4 entryways to the experience of gratitude. ‘BLESSINGS are the primary, cross-cultural portal through which we experience gratitude. LEARNINGS, MERCIES and PROTECTIONS are three other portals attributed with fostering gratitude in various worldwide cultures.’ She goes on to say that it opens and creates opportunities for other good experiences.
The one thing that has struck me in listening, reading and talking to people who have lived through cataclysmic events or traumas is the consistency with which they express gratitude for simply being alive.
But what about the impact that something like Cyclone Winton has on the mind, body, soul and life? Just how can something so tragic and overwhelming bring Grace and Gratitude into our lives? I invite you now to pause and reflect on each of these four areas. I have linked each to one of Arrien’s entryways and added images and prompts to help you focus. Have pen and paper to hand as you walk your way through this exercise.
BODY – Protections
‘When people in great numbers choose to practice, integrate, and embody gratitude, the cumulative force that is generated can help create the kind of world we all hope for and desire, for ourselves and for future generations.’
Try putting yourself in the shoes of a person who is living in this house. It is a simple home, made of corrugated sheets of iron. When the 330kph winds hit the safest place was to hide in the outdoor kitchen. The noise must have been horrific. Flying debris, torn and uprooted trees, roofing iron and other missiles hurtling through the air. Then there would have been the calm of the eye followed by another bout of fury. To step outside would have been akin to a death sentence. The damage was catastrophic.
I’ve tried to put myself into their shoes. It’s not possible. Having never experienced anything like it, I can only begin to imagine. Those who have lived through it speak more about being grateful to be alive than the losses of material possessions.
- Take a moment to reflect on a time in your life when you were protected from harm.
- Identify 3 good things about what happened then and how you felt.
- Write them down.
- Give thanks now for the protection you received.
MIND – Learning
‘Gratitude is essentially the recognition of the unearned increments of value in one’s experience.’
- Continuing on from the previous reflection identify 3 lessons you learnt at that time.
- How have these learnings shaped and influenced your life?
- OR in hindsight identify 3 opportunities for learning now and consider how you might implement those into your life.
- Add these to your list.
SOUL – Blessings
‘The practice of gratitude provides healing and enhances our inherent nature.’
‘Spirituality gives meaning to life, and spiritual growth is about discovering meaning. Spirituality is often expressed in religious terms, but it is the experience of recognizing states of grace, the transcendent, synchronicity, and that which is sacred or holy; it can be found in nature, silence, art, music, family, and friendship. It can bring wholeness to the emotional, physical, and intellectual dimensions of life. The spirit, or life force, within us is the essence or center point of mystery and meaning that is present at the core of our essential nature. It is the force that allows us to integrate our internal and external experiences. The essence of spirituality provides a sense of intactness and wholeness in our nature. When we are in touch with this central core, we experience self-trust and unshakeable faith. Connecting to this core brings us into alignment with what has heart and meaning, and conveys what remains mysterious and transcendent for us all. It is that which makes us unique.’
- Take a moment to reflect on all the good things in your life.
- List 3 for which you are grateful.
- Next to each add why you are grateful for it.
- Then give thanks for the blessings they have brought into your life
- Add these to your list.
LIFE – Mercies
‘People respond positively to gratitude, and this response directly impacts both people’s generosity and their relationship to abundance.’
“…we are all interconnected; our combined efforts matter; what we do matters; and how we treat each other matters, too. If we think any other way, we risk treating people like light switches, believing that they alone are the causes of things—good and bad—when really we are perpetually paying forward the realities that together we are illuminating.” strengthslife.com
Pause a moment to listen to this song – You raise me up
The purpose of this final exercise is create a moment of Grace – for yourself, for the nation of Fiji, for the world.
Take three deep breaths and focus your attention into your heart space.
Think of a time when you felt blessed, peaceful, happy. Tap into that feeling as strongly as you can and hold on to it. Then amplify it.
Think of the people of Fiji who are recovering and rebuilding their lives after Cyclone Winston.
Send the feelings in your heart to them wrapped in Grace as a blessing, a message of love, of support.
You may wish to extend this gift of Grace to others.
Return your focus to your heart.
Give thanks for the opportunity to send this Act of Service to those in need.
How do you feel now?
I strongly recommend you journal or write a few words about this exercise. It will help to ground and consolidate it. Another action you may wish to consider is to roll your writings into a scroll and have a private burning ceremony as a further way of releasing the gift of Grace to flow out into the world.
I would like to thank strengthslife.com for the idea that helped to create this last exercise.
Images Pixabay and personal albums