“May the nourishment of the earth be yours.May the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours, may the protection of the ancestors be yours. And so may a slow wind work these words of love around you, an invisible cloak to mind your life.”
– John O’Donohue
Losing everything you have is a reality that is hard to fathom and a fear that drives many. In the month since Hurricane Sandy, this reality has come to tens of thousands. We all stop to pause at how incredibly fragile and inevitably fleeting the edifices of our security actually are. Natural disasters are so common now, that it is more a question of when than if. And although most people reading this can’t relate to bombs wiping out every recognizable corner of your neighborhood, this is the reality in many places on earth. It is easy to confuse our sense of self with the comforts that we build into making a home, holding a job, maintaining our health, even driving our car. Who are we when all the trappings that define us disappear?
This is the soul question that everyone has to answer, because sooner or later, whether thorough nature’s caprices, the faltering economy, or the occurrence of disease, our lives are not fastened nearly as securely as we would like to believe. The terrifying truth is that each of us is as susceptible to the reality of completely losing the ground under our feet. We are all at the edge of being completely overwhelmed by the gravity of loss that literally reinvents us and our lives. In these tragic moments when we are naked in the world, the reality of kindness and gratitude is not an idea; it is the material out of which we re-construct.
The kindness of neighbors and strangers, the softness that comes into relationships hardened by years of neglect or disrespect, the willingness of professionals to keep helping through a disaster all make up the clear fabric of our lives. We need each other more than we ever knew. We are made stronger in the weighty tasks of letting go and healing each other even in terminal illness. Faith in something holier translates effortlessly into the recognition of daily kindnesses and the smallest tokens previously taken for granted and retrieved from a ruined home are signs of the miraculous. Each additional day that we wrest from an illness is reduced to witnessing the beauty and connection that we had taken for granted in a life we thought we had secured.
An old French proverb says, “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” When life forces us to shift our outward gaze toward our inner life, toward finding our truth beyond the security of what we have known, our experience of gratitude is the only way to make sense of the past because it shows us how to make peace with the present. It is a golden and rare moment when our hearts can teach us how to feel our grief, how to befriend our fears by experiencing what is left with the life-changing force of gratitude. Unlike memories that we store in our minds eye, the depth of remembering with our hearts is always a path to gratitude.
Culturally, we have been taught to minimize the deep wisdom that the heart embodies, which is ironic considering that the heart has an energy field 60 times as powerful as our brains. Sixty percent of our heart cells are neurons, which, like brain cells explain the intelligence of the organ. Allow your soul- searching questions to rest with your heart thoughts which, especially in moments of total loss, are in fact, more accurate and reliable than brain thought. Gratitude is the frequency that unites us and gives us the strength to rebuild.