Years ago, in the middle of a visit to Peru, I got sick. I mean really sick.
The scene was pretty stark.
I was staying in a hut on an island at Lake Titicaca. There was no running water or electrical power. Which was quaint and cool.
That is, until 2 am the first night.
I was shivering in my bed, listening to the rain pound on the roof of the hut. And I was begging myself to please not get sick again because that would mean going outside in the freezing cold rain.
What I’ve noticed about food poisoning is that food poisoning never says, “Well, okay, since you put it that way…”
Which means that I was soon pawing at the shelf next to my bed until I found my flashlight. I stumbled out into the driving rain through a herd of goats, all of whom were delighted I had decided to join them. Talking to each other as they walked, they followed me to my destination – a hole in the ground with three plywood walls around it.
And there I was. Getting soaked and frozen, on my hands and knees in the mud, with goats nuzzling at me and bleating in my ear while I sobbed and puked and sobbed and you know all the other details.
The smells of the outhouse made me even more violently ill. I paused, panting and still crying. None of which deterred the goats, who continued their happy conversation with their new guest.
And then, without ceremony – without so much as a single flicker – my flashlight went out.
Hunched down on the ground, I stared blindly into the darkness at the spot that had once been the only source of light on that entire island.
And that’s when an angel appeared.
Well, no. It wasn’t actually an angel.
It was my own smart-ass observer self. She was standing way way way outside of this drama. Way outside of the goats, the rain, the freezing cold and the fact that I had to walk about 100 yards in the pitch black to get back to my cold bed.
She assessed the situation, put her chin in her hand and said, “Hmm. Well, this is definitely a low point of your life. And if I may, I’d like to share some good news. I think — and I might be wrong here — but I think it can only get better from here.”
Sometimes upon returning to the States after visiting other countries, I spend several days feeling shell-shocked and angry at all we take for granted.
On this return trip, however, I arrived at the airport, walked into the restroom, turned on the hot water, put my hands under it and was swept over by the most intense feeling of gratitude I had ever felt.
I stood there smiling. I wanted to say to each woman at the row of sinks, “Look! Hot water! No goats!”
After I was grateful for the hot water, I was grateful for gratitude. Gratitude had simply taken me over.
It was one of my most profound experiences of what I’ll call “gratitudeness” – being in a state of gratitude, as opposed to thinking about things for which I’m grateful.
At a time when we’re all so busy and distracted, “gratitude” can become yet another dutiful checklist. We barely exit our left-brain long enough to let appreciation take up residence within us.
In fact, you may not even know what that would feel like. That’s okay.
Here’s a weird little practice I developed that will help you access the experience of Gratitudeness…
First, imagine the Harry Potter invisibility cloak.
Pretend that you’ve draped it over your hand.
Now, if you looked down and couldn’t see your hand, how would you know your hand existed?
That feeling. That “handness” feeling. That is the beginning of being present in your body.
It’s knowing what your hands feel like even if you’re invisible.
Once you get that idea, do the same thing with your arms. (Armness.)
And then, try it with your heart. (Heartness.)
After that, try to shift the same idea into feelings, like love. (Loveness.)
- Sit quietly, close your eyes and breathe.
- Bring into your mind something for which you are profoundly grateful.
- That feeling, that smile that arises in you. That’s the feeling of gratitude. Let it build up.
- Observe that feeling as an entity unto itself. Then take you out of the picture. Put on the invisibility cloak. And let the feeling of gratitude become all that’s left of you.
- Practice often.
Eckhart Tolle writes, “You don’t need to own anything to feel abundant, although if you feel abundant consistently things will almost certainly come to you. Abundance comes only to those who already have it. It sounds almost unfair, but of course it isn’t. It is a universal law. Both abundance and scarcity are inner states that manifest as your reality.”
This week, in addition to your lists, consider cultivating an inner state of gratitude. It might not be easy. But it is pretty simple. No goats required.