Gratitude and Generosity

So, it’s December. Already. A_yogi_seated_in_a_garden

After a prolonged illness during which I spent much of September, all of October, and most of November bedridden, I have emerged, having missed an entire season and feeling a bit out of it, among other things.

As I readjust and reacquaint myself with life beyond the confines of my increasingly-uncomfortable-the-longer-I-spent-in-it bed, I am filled with a sense of gratitude. I had never been incapacitated that long, and while I am grateful for my good health now, I am also retroactively grateful for all the good health I’ve enjoyed much of my life.

When I was a young teenager, my sister-in-law, the mother of my two toddler nephews, became suddenly ill with a heart condition that necessitated more than one heart transplant, multiple hospital stays, and a lifetime since of precarious health. At the time, as an inexperienced kid, I was simply incapable of understanding what it must have been like for her to be so ill at a time when her children so desperately needed her. Though I understood the situation was dire and difficult, I did not comprehend fully the emotional turmoil that she and her husband and children must have been experiencing.

My experience pales in comparison to the severity of the situation of my sister-in-law, but I did spend a lot of time thinking about her as I recovered. Being sick is hard. Watching someone you love suffer through illness is hard. Being incapable of caring for your young child is excruciating.

I think it is also hard to be honest about just how miserable we are, so great is the pressure to “stay positive” and “get well soon”. Modern society tends to be uncomfortable with discomfort, with dis-ease, with any forced reminder to be in our bodies, vulnerable as they are. And so we tritely tell folks to focus on the positive and to take good care, reassuring them it will all be better soon.

I have certainly done this with others and I caught myself doing it to myself as well. The first few weeks in bed were spent in disbelief and irritation that I was sick at all. The next few weeks in anger. Finally, as I was forced to accept help and generosity from those who love me most, I was able to feel some compassion and empathy for my own suffering. I could see these things in the eyes and feel it in the hands of those who showed up to care for me. Seeing how willing they were to bear my pain and to hold my hand through it, without saying the things you’re supposed to say, I was finally able to accept what was happening.

It feels impossible to fully express my gratefulness for this lesson and for the people who showed up to teach it to me. It feels impossible to fully describe their selfless giving of spirit, heart, and time. And in this season of thankfulness and sharing I am filled to the brim with both my own gratitude and their generosity. I am grateful to have been forced, once again, to inhabit my body fully and to find acceptance there. I am grateful for the humans who surround me with their love. I am grateful for lessons learned. I am newly aware of how generous life is in its ability to constantly surprise and teach us. I am present to the generosity and kindness that exists in the world.

There are no greater gifts I could ask for this holiday season.

Wishing you and yours a holiday season filled with gratitude and generosity, dear yogis. Namaste.

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The Power of Stories

Brainpickings.org is one of my favorite websites because of things like this:

The Neurochemistry of Empathy, Storytelling, and the Dramatic Arc, Animated. 

I’ve just happened to read or listen to a lot of things recently about brain plasticity. I was particularly struck by a quote from the post on Brainpickings:

 “Stories are powerful because they transport us into other people’s worlds but, in doing that, they change the way our brains work and potentially change our brain chemistry — and that’s what it means to be a social creature.”

Our brains are constantly rewiring themselves based on what we consume and what we experience. The stories we read, the stories we listen to, and the stories we tell … all of these have the potential to affect the wiring of our brains. The implications of this are huge.

B0007846 Pyramidal neuronsYogis talk a lot about self-talk, and how the things we tell ourselves can either promote or inhibit our spiritual growth. Is our self-talk damaging or nourishing, critical or compassionate? And are we surrounding ourselves with ideas and images and people who are wiring our brains for love and connection or for separateness and competition?  How are the stories we tell ourselves about our past, our present, our future, our abilities, our successes and our failures affecting the development of our brains?

Big questions worth asking, I think.

Namaste, yogis.