01.06.2008

Life's Gifts

Dr Charmaine Saunders shares her secret life of blessings.

DrCharmaine Saunders shares her secret life of blessings.

Count your blessings, they say. This is a very positivepractice, but sometimes difficult to do when life isthrowing us more challenges than usual as happens somedays, weeks and years. But I always say it's at thesetimes that we need to focus even more on all that wehave rather than being overwhelmed by the immediateproblems. Every so often, it's necessary and human toindulge in self pity, allow ourselves to wallow andbe really negative. Giving ourselves permission to dothis is actually very liberating and, ironically, ensuresthat the bad feelings are shortlived. Logic doesn'tcome into it. If we try to control and stifle the naturalflow of our emotions, we feed them and contain them,just like a fire increasing in ferocity if caught upin a backdraft in a small space. Trusting our own feelings,whether positive or negative, is a sign of psychologicalhealth, and the foundation for a balanced, happy life.Having considered the flipside of blessings, I can nowconcentrate on all the good things about expending energyon counting them. Blessings are the gifts of our livesand also positive energy that we send forth.

GRATITUDE

Gratitude is an energy that the holistic and New Agemovements teach us to work with. Each one of us willhave specific things we are thankful for, but many willbe common to all of us, such as health, good weather,friends, loved ones, special occasions, enjoyable experiences,holidays, outings, hobbies, a nice lifestyle and soon. In "The Secret", it's suggested that weuse a "gratitude stone", just an ordinarybeach pebble that is simply a tool to trigger our momentsof thankfulness. I use mine for all the tiny thingsthat happen each day because, let's be honest, mostdays are filled in the main with small moments of joyand annoyance. The extremes are the exceptions. At theend of each day, I pick up my stone and just recallthings like getting all green traffic lights when Iwas in a hurry, a lovely meal I enjoyed, hearing froma friend, getting a cheque I wasn't expecting. If onrare occasions I can't think of anything specific, Ijust say, "For all that I am and all that I have."Those of us in Western societies have so much to bethankful for, even at the most basic level - warm beds,enough food, clean water, fresh air, nice clothes, meaningfulwork. Nonetheless, comparing ourselves to those whohave less good stuff and more bad stuff doesn't engendergratitude in itself. Each of us has to walk an individualjourney that is a unique experience. No two people cantotally understand each other, regardless of the levelof empathy and compassion present. My problems are stillproblems to me even if they're small compared to yours.Feeling thankful only happens when we're comfortablein our own skins and truly happy to be alive.

What takes us away from being thankful?

Excess self pityDwelling on lacks instead of giftsNegative thinkingLack of self esteemComparing with othersFocusing too much on future goalsLiving in the past.

What engenders blessings?

Enjoying small pleasuresLiving in the presentPositive thinkingLiving in a spirit of giving and sharingForgiving the pastFollowing your blissLiving with joyFreeing your inner childGiving yourself time to savour life's gifts

Another angle on the subject of blessings is the practiceof placing positive energy onto every act and personwe come into contact with each day. This can take theform of affirmations or just a silent prayer. Therewas a good deal of controversy when Shirley Maclainestated in her book "Out on a Limb" that eachone of us is God. That's not really so outrageous ifyou consider that we carry the God energy within usand, in this way, we are part of all that is, includingwhatever Higher Spirit you believe in. Hence, I bestowblessings myself rather than ask for blessings.

I bless my car every time I get into it. I bless myhouse every time I leave it. I send blessings aheadto everywhere I'm going to and everyone I will meet.If I'm travelling, I bless the plane, boat or train,the crew and my fellow passengers. Every morning, Ibless the day ahead, my loved ones, my home, myselfand anyone who needs a special prayer that day of whichI may not be aware. As it's a cause dear to my heart,I pray especially for the animals suffering anywherein the world - the seals in Canada, the dogs and bearsin China, the dolphins and whales in the oceans.

Blessings in this context are basically prayers. It'sa very lovely way to live, as you're literally wrappingyourself up in a warm blanket of hope, joy, love andsafety.

This spirit of blessings is more difficult to practisewhen it involves people we don't like or situationswe find unpalatable, but it works regardless. In fact,it's very powerful. Even life's toughest lessons andchallenges are blessings in disguise. There are manyinstances I could recount that have happened in thelast 10 years since I began working with this energy,but I'd like to share just two with you here, one asmall example and the other, a longer tale.

A friend of mine is married to a man who tells jokesnon-stop; indeed, it's his "wall", an emotionaldefence he has set up to make him feel comfortable withothers. I have always found this habit irritating becauseI like to have real conversations with people, not superficialchitchat. Anyway, for a short period of time, we happenedto live next door to each other and it got to whereI didn't want to see them at all due to the husband'shabit. So, I began saying the mantra, "I love andaccept Fred (not his real name) just as he is in thismoment."

Then my dog died very suddenly and I had to ring andtell them because their children loved my animals andwould come over to play with them. As it happened, Fredanswered the phone and my heart sank at the thoughtthat he might make some crass remark. But after I toldhim, he just went quiet, said how very sorry he wasand thanked me for telling them. I couldn't believethe change in him and how sensitive he was. By acceptinghim, I attracted a new energy from him altogether.

The next story is rather long but worth sharing. Tenyears ago, I was working through a lot of my own psychologicalissues, as well as being on a spiritual journey. Aspart of all this, I attended a weekend workshop whichconsisted of two separate days of lectures, discussionsand exercises. The first day was very intellectual,but the second day was anything but.

I was there with a friend and it soon became clearthat the day was going to be emotionally draining. Wewere to do energy releasing exercises in groups, butone of the facilitators was really getting on my nerves.I was anxious about the day's proceedings and felt thatthis guy was adding to my tension. I spoke to the leaderof the workshop and asked Jim to keep this man awayfrom me. His answer was that he didn't direct the facilitatorsto work with specific people. I was puzzled but hadto accept the situation.

In the afternoon, we were told that each one of uswould hug everyone else before any healing could begin.Immediately, I shuddered at the thought of hugging thefacilitator I didn't like. I hasten to add that I veryrarely feel this way about anyone, but when I do, it'sa very powerful feeling and I've learnt to take heedof it. Yet, I couldn't exactly refuse to hug just oneperson so I said my prayer again, "I love and acceptthis man exactly as he is in this moment" as Iembraced him. Now, you can believe this or not, butI never saw him again the rest of the day. The healinggroups were all in one large room and altogether, andthere were no more than 40 participants so it doesn'tmake sense that I didn't clap eyes on him again, buthe literally disappeared off my radar. Whatever lessonhe served for me had been achieved and I no longer neededto interact with him.

Try this the next time you have a difficult meetingor have to see a relative you don't like or need togo to the dentist. Send a blessing ahead and whateveryou dread will be ameliorated. I even bless my billsas I mail them, the recipients of all my letters andemails and, most difficult of all, drivers on the roadwho I secretly want to kill! Blessings counteract allbad feelings and anger. So it is the best way to exerciseforgiveness.

Send blessings to those who have hurt you the mostfor they are your greatest teachers. They, too, aregifts in your life. Most is all, wake each day witha blessing on your lips and in your heart for the giftof another day. Life each day is the most precious blessingof all.

However you decide to use blessings, use them. Don'twaste the immense power they will afford you every day.

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