February 16, 2016

Gratitude: It Goes Beyond the “Thank You.”


I had a moment this morning where it was one of those auspicious times in my life where a teacher of mine said words that I know in this exact moment that I needed to hear.

They applied to my life right now and the exact details of what I am struggling with on levels that go beyond the logistical, emotional and even spiritual. We have all had these moments, right?

I wanted to reach out to her and hug her and bow to her and try to find some sort of words that would resonate to where she would know just how much this has affected me—but I am not going to do this. Not this time.

Having written many articles publicly, and posts on social media,  and having taught yoga classes, etc., I have somehow found myself on the other side of this as well.

I have found myself on the side of being the “teacher” who has also been told that her stories and words and energy have also resonated at exactly those right times for others. I somehow have found myself in this place as well and sometimes do not even know how to respond to some of the heartfelt thanks that I have received.

All that I really want is for people to feel grateful for their lives—for all of it, every last drop.

And what is the, “thank you”?

It is gratitude, yes, but this is not for something that I have necessarily given anyone else, nor is it really anything that anyone else has really given me.

Rather, this “thank you” is an acknowledgment of the resonance of what someone else has said, written, or modeled in a way that has touched deeply something that was already there.

I realized years ago that gratitude was not just some airy concept of which the “spiritual folk” incessantly parroted.

Oh, no—there was more to this.

These years ago, when I was at a point of almost complete social isolation and even emotional desperation, gratitude became one of my most important practical tools. Gratitude to me was the guide, a tether of sorts, to my own inner teacher with whom I consulted to consciously rebuild many perceptions that I had about my own life.

Did my marriage fail? Yes.

Was I redetermining where I was going with my career and reframing how I could most effectively serve others while nurturing myself? Yes.

Was I grappling for guidance and support when everything felt like it was crumbling around me, and I was feeling that I was on a dead-end road that was filled with potholes and the, “You’ve got to be kidding me” type of speed bumps? Absolutely.

It was hard, and things to this day are challenging at times, but I have learned how to live with more ease, and I have chosen to see the beauty that is really there amidst the seemingly mundane and also the extremely challenging.

Some hours back then felt like days, days like months, and I had a couple of years that felt like lifetimes, but the growth process during this time began to be built on my choosing to see things from a much different angle.

I remember one day during a snowstorm when I was sitting at an intersection with my two tiny little girls in the back seat. I was back in school and was also working and trying to take care of them, when, one of the first weeks that I was on my own with them, I found out that they both had acquired head lice (yes, head lice) from their daycare.

I remember sitting there feeling the weight of it all. Tears streamed down my face while I sat there at that red light while late for a meeting, and blaming myself for thinking that I had made some horrible life choices. I felt completely overwhelmed.

Suddenly, I made a choice. I chose to be grateful for it all—every last bit of it.

I chose to choose.

I get to be a mother to these precious little girls.

I get to be back in school and to learn about things that I am really passionate about.

I get to write, I get to create, I get to drive a car, and I have somehow found this loving childcare provider who loves my girls as much as she would love her own—so that I can fulfill some of my purpose in this life that does not involve being a mother, which of course is also part of my purpose.

I had had enough and my overwhelm of it all turned into a cascading feeling of an overwhelm of gratitude.

It happened that simply, in an instant, as sometimes these things can happen—similar to how in some movies the screen turns from black and white to color when something really great happens.

Sometimes gratitude can come naturally, but for most of us we are not conditioned to see things this way, especially when we are really struggling.

It is a choice, but it is a choice that is there for us in every moment of every day and it becomes a practice.

This is the practice.

As with any practice though, this practice is not like a magical pill to make everything perfect, but it does allow us to see the beauty that is there beyond the fears, frustrations, expectations, and being lost sometimes in the tactical strategy that simple everyday existence can sometimes require of us.

I am a believer in the expressing of our gratitude, but for those who give to us or teach us—let us not put them on pedestals, because this just makes us feel smaller, and this is not true.

And for those to whom we give or teach (and we all teach, every single day) let us not put ourselves on pedestals either, because this just makes us feel bigger and this is also not true.

We can say “thank you” to others, and we can accept the “thank you” from others, but the real expression of gratitude is just allowing ourselves to feel grateful for this experience, together—perhaps in a different way than we had before.

Our “thank you” can be as empty at times as a worn-out, methodical “I love you” can be if we do not align with the energy and the feeling behind our words.

But, the more that we choose this, the easier it is to feel.

The more that we see with our hearts, the easier it is to see through a lens of appreciation—as this is all so temporary.

We can steep ourselves in gratitude whenever we have lost our perspectives, when we feel like giving up, when our worlds somehow seem to have gone dark—gratitude is like a brilliant lighthouse on what can sometimes feel like dark and volatile waters—and it is always, always, always available to us.

So from the bottom of this heart to yours, I say and I feel, “thank you.”

Thank you to each and every one of you for being on this little trip with me—we are all in this together.



Author: Katie Vessel

Editor: Travis May

Image: Flickr/Christine H

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