“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” – G.K. Chesterton
Thanksgiving is a special time for creating space in our busy lives to reflect and focus on the many things that we have to be grateful for in life. My heart is literally bursting with joy as I have immense gratitude at this time in my life for many reasons. This year, my children are in Chicago for Thanksgiving and I’m celebrating with a very dear friend this past week. Niko, and I met during our Masters in Spiritual Psychology program many years ago and became fast friends. He’s a gem of a man who, like many of us, has been through some major challenges in his own life which made me want to open my heart and share some of my innermost feelings.
Today, I want to chat with you about fear and where it comes from. For the first time in my life, I’ve actually conquered many lingering fears and I am so grateful for that. Yet, it seems that as long as we are in these human suits, fear whether big or small, is a part of life that stalks us in the shadows. Fear can be both real and imagined. Only real fear is there to serve us if we don’t allow it to control us. The truth is that most fear is in our minds and not in our reality, yet we tend to focus on those imagined fears, actually bringing them into our reality. Imagined fear comes from our beliefs. And, where do our beliefs come from? They come from our life experiences, the culture we live in, as well as the environment that shapes us. In my own life, much of my belief system was formed early on as I was deeply impacted by my Father: A troubled man, having been abandoned as a child, raised in an orphanage and forced out into the world on his own at the tender age of 18.
Growing up, I rarely spoke with my Father, yet on some level, I sensed his inner world. I had immense compassion for him as I could only imagine the sheer devastation and terror he must have felt at that time. It was a terror that he would carry with him until the day he died. What does this have to do with Thanksgiving and my friend, Nico? We all go through dark times in our lives. And, we all carry fear inside of us. I’ll be honest. My greatest fear is being homeless and my dear friend, Niko, found himself homeless not that long ago. This is a fear that has literally permeated my sense of being for most of my life. It’s a fear that has disturbed my peace many times. I’m aware that it’s an irrational one. Each day, I have the great fortune to have a beautiful roof over my head, a warm bed to call my own, and delicious food at my beck and call.
Gratitude is a game changer. Niko and I were chatting the other night about this very topic. He was so beautiful and candid in opening up about his inner world. I was humbled by his honesty, sharing how he had fallen into an ungrateful place in his life. He was angry and resentful and he realized that that was the energy he was projecting into the world. His life wasn’t working and before he knew it, he found himself without a job or a bank account, and waking up in a homeless shelter. When I look back and reflect on my own life, there have been many times that I wasn’t grateful for what I had at the time. The Universe has a way of “course correcting” us for our highest good, even if at the time, it feels like more of a punishment. Sometimes, the best way to serve up a healthy dose of gratitude is to have something meaningful taken away to fully experience how much it meant to you. Haven’t you had that experience in life? You end up grumbling about something, maybe it’s your job or your relationship. Before you know it, you’ve been fired or your girlfriend walks out on you. Instantly, your perspective shifts. You begin rewriting the past and wanting things to be different.
I’ve learned a great deal from my friend. I’ve watched him shift his inner world. I’ve watched him learn to take full responsibility for his life, his thoughts, his feelings, his emotions, his patterns and behaviors. Niko is no longer homeless. He has a job for which he is immensely grateful. He has reconnected to his spirituality and is even studying a special sect in Buddhism. He began taking inventory and learning how to accept responsibility for everything in his life. He has faced my deepest fears and not only survived, but thrived. I’ve watched him triumph over his own fears. Adversity has brought out the best in him. He’s become more humble, more peaceful and kinder to himself and others. Thank you, Niko, I’ve learned a great deal from you my friend. You are a true gentleman. You are my hero. And, I am grateful. Happy Thanksgiving.