Accessing Gratitude (My Peruvian Outhouse Story) - Christine Kane


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.)

Or gratitude.

Like this:

  1. Sit quietly, close your eyes and breathe.
  1. Bring into your mind something for which you are profoundly grateful.
  1. That feeling, that smile that arises in you. That’s the feeling of gratitude. Let it build up.
  1. 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.
  1.  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.

  • Cheryle Yin Lo

    Talk about gratitude . I’m Australian and my husband lived in Peru in a small mud brick house the 80s and it was my most happiest moments in life . We also started a house for street children and then lived in Bangladesh for 3 years . It definitely makes you see the world differently and appreciate gratitude in life ! Thanks for sharing and reminding me of that insight !

  • Liliana Arévalo

    OMG Christine, estuviste en mi querido PERU! What a pity what happened to you in Puno, I know what you’re talking about, it’s terrible!, but in the end those experiences are what make us grow and thank life. I hope you can go back, to PERU again… to Lima -I live there (without goats!). My country is very beautiful! Thanks for sharing your experience. Un fuerte abrazo! Liliana.

  • Ruth

    This is brilliant.
    What a great way to help people get in contact with their bodies and feelings!
    I like it 🙂

  • Shelly Herman

    I Love this. I just kept reading it over and over.. Although I am a grateful person. I still need to be in a state of gratitude and although I don’t feel abundant at times I am blessed with abundance. .im not completely where I want to be in my life but I am still grateful and abundant. Thank you Christine I will read this often. I will also use some of these words in my Family Christmas prayer..Happy Thanksgiving..Grateful Shelly

  • Barb

    Oh, Christine. Thank you!!!

  • Pam

    Thank you Christine and Happy Thanksgiving!

    I felt your pain and your gratitude. Really appreciated this blog at this time!

  • Roxanne

    Childhood summers spent at my Mom’s home were great. Way back then there were plenty of cousins, family & visitors, wood stoves, no electricity or running water, feather beds & outhouses. I loved it.
    Thanks, Christine.

  • Michael LaRocca

    The only outhouse I’ve ever used was in Roxboro, North Carolina, but I did spend 12 years in Asia. I can squat over a hole with the best of them, but I’d rather not.

  • Lindy

    I spent a whole year in Peru, my senior year in high school (seems a lifetime ago now!) Thanks for this story—while I can’t think of one quite as stark as the goats and the outhouse, I have many. Yours brought me a smile and a rush of memories. Thank you. I completely relate to both coming home to gratitude, and to the other—anger at how we take our abundance so for granted. May we all rest in gratitude!

  • Karin

    This piece touched my heart in the deepest part of the well. I am an emotional person to begin with, but I nearly wept at your reaction to the warm water. I completely agree that gratitude is the fullest feeling one can experience. All I have to do is think about my grandchildren, and I feel as if I may burst. They fill my heart and my life with great gratitude.

  • Robyn Vie Carpenter-Brisco

    This was a great illustration of gratitude. The first thing that I explain to my clients and the beginning of every talk I do is “Everything begins with Gratitude”

    I write morning pages. It is because I promised my Self that I would begin every entry with gratitude, I have been freed from so much complaining.

    It is gratitude that helped me say goodbye to my 97 year old grandmother just two weeks ago and smile when I think about it.

    Thank you for this!!

  • Pamela Frennier

    Thank you for all that you offer the world! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family along with your lovely Team:)

    With much Gratitude,

  • Carolyn

    Beautiful. Thank you, Christine for this and the other inspiration you give throughout the year. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Heather Kamala

    Wonderful piece, Christine!
    The happy goats in their perfect setting. Thanks for the lesson. After finishing the VBP pilot program and now signed up for the next special course, I had a dream that I was at your final event in Ashville and it was awesome! So glad I met you.

    • Christine Kane

      Awesome Heather! Excited to continue our work together!

  • Pam Pappas

    Thanks for sharing this great story from your life, Christine. The contrast between staring (and smelling) into that outhouse hole in the ground and washing in the clean water from a sink, is life-altering at so many levels. And in some parts of the world, “goatfulness” goes right along with “gratefulness”! With your story, I can’t help but think of JK Rowling’s quote: “And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

    • Christine Kane

      I LOVE that quote Pam! (and it’s such a 4-ish thing to say. 🙂 )

  • Becky Kay Sixtos

    Christine, Thank you for sharing this powerful story. Wishing you and your team a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  • Jim Campbell

    Thank you Christine. So appropriate and timely considering that tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we can always use assistance focusing on the things that are really important…

  • Joanne Kaminski

    I can’t imagine going one day without gratitude. O.k. that is a lie. The truth is, when I am not grateful, my day does not go very well. When I am feeling down, I usually come to the conclusion that it is because I am not being grateful. Sometimes I write my gratitude list in my ipod touch. Othertimes I just go through each day thinking of things that I am grateful for when I am in the midst of them. Thank you for sharing how you are grateful and how you go about being grateful.

  • Andrea

    Dear Christine,
    thanks for sharing this story with us, reminding us to practise gratitude every day. Although I love goats, it must have been difficult to have them there and then…
    Have a great day

  • Wiroj Tirakungovit

    Thank you so much for sharing me the excellent ideas full of thoughtfulness and humane. I also admire your capability in music and writings. The great of all is your “devotion” for the “retreat” stuffs.
    In the future, I may ask you for permission to use some of your writings for my teaching in class of Human Resource Management for MBA in Bangkok. Or translate some parts of them in my writings for some academic and non-academic articles.
    I am a Buddhist and graduated from BYU and Oklahoma State University.
    Thank again.
    Wiroj Tirakungovit

  • Jennifer DiOrio

    I absolutely love your blog (at this moment I cannot remember how I found you…..oh, I think I googled vision boards…I’ll be working on that soon too). My family and I have just started a gratitude journal everynight before we got to bed….it’s been so lovely. I love how you incorporated Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth in your section about feeling abundant …a new way for me to incorporate that wonderful book into gratitude. On night’s when I’m feeling grumpy and cannot seem to “think” of something to be grateful for, I often just write down Eckhart Tolle and A New Earth; now I will also include Christine Kane (but not just when I’m grumpy)! With deep gratitude!!!! Jennifer~

  • Pippa


    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful technique. I exercised this and I had an absolutely *awesome* day experiencing gratitudeness.

    Wow, what a powerful way to connect with how truly blessed we are! Thank you again.


  • Susan

    Thank you, I have been working on this for over a month and your article is very helpful. I have read several tonight and enjoyed them all. It is hard to get off the computer and stop but I have to sleep sometime. I’ll be back tomorrow.

  • christine

    Hi MK… I’m glad to hear that. I’m always a happier person when I take the time to notice how many gifts are all around. It’s a great practice. Thanks for the note!

  • mary katherine


    I’ve been doing the gratitude journal since I got home from the retreat. What a great way to end each day. Thanks for the suggestion!


  • christine

    Hi 888 — Very well put!

  • 888

    There may be two types of ecstasy experienced. One is where one consciously reaches levels of passion and presumes this to be ecstasy in the essential form. The other is the essential substance, undiluted and pure from passion, and this is supreme gratitude.