I could write for weeks about the two days I spent in a live session with Eckhart Tolle last weekend, but this Gratitude Sunday post will be the last on that event. It’s been a week full of heavy, and I’m ready to lighten up some.
Before I do that, I’m going to deviate from the usual format of the Gratitude Sunday posts to share with you the most amazing story of gratitude that I’ve ever heard. It took place during the second day of Eckhart’s session, and I was (and am) truly humbled by hearing it.
Eckhart invited a guest to join him at the end of his lecture. Canadian Amanda Lindhout is a former journalist who, in 2008 at the age of 27, was kidnapped with a fellow journalist while on a freelance assignment on Somalia. She was held in captivity for 15 months while the kidnappers demanded a ransom of $1 million – an amount her family could not afford to pay.
About her conditions in captivity – I’ll only say what has been publicly reported, since it is not my story to tell or my place to tell it. For the bulk of her captivity, she was kept in solitary confinement in a completely dark, windowless room with almost no food and water. She was chained to the floor, so she had very limited mobility, and was subject to severe beatings and abuse.
But this is not the remarkable part of her story. On stage with Eckhart, she told us that her gratitude practice sustained her during her ordeal, even in the darkest moments. At the end of each day, she said she would recount everything she was grateful for. One day it might be a cockroach that she was able to observe on the ground or to feel crawling on her skin, a small amount of food or water given to her, or even her captors themselves. She was grateful to be alive. She was grateful for the opportunity to think about what she would do to make the world a better place if she were ever freed.
Lindhout also felt compassion for her captors. She described a transcendental experience she had, where she saw that her kidnappers suffered even more than she did. She saw herself, not apart from them, but as one with them. This experience is what has enabled her to forgive them, although she said that forgiveness is an ongoing process, not something you do once and then move on. She has to practice forgiveness day by day, moment by moment.
Amanda and her colleague were freed in November, 2009. Looking back, Lindhout said that as difficult as it was to endure at the time, she is grateful for the experience, which she says taught her that it is possible to turn adversity into an opportunity for growth. She added that it pushed her into what she believes is her life’s work – which is to make Somalia, and the world, a better place. She has already begun her work in earnest, by founding the Global Enrichment Foundation, which funds the Somali Women’s Scholarship Program, providing secondary education and support for Somali women.
I remember one Gratitude Sunday post a while ago saying I believe it is even more important to practice gratitude when things, at least externally, are not going well in our lives. Amanda Lindhout is a living example of the power gratitude can have in our lives.
I spent the better part of this week sick in bed. I’m still recovering. Amanda’s story was in my mind often, so I was sure not to waste any time feeling sorry for myself. Instead, on a week which would otherwise have looked pretty bleak, here is what I am grateful for:
- A soft bed with clean sheets to lay in.
- The time to get lots of rest – Phil at work, kids in school
- A dog to keep me company, curled up at my feet on the bed
- Access to good medical care, specifically antibiotics and prescription cough syrup
- Whiskey – normally I’m not a fan, but it sure does numb a throat rubbed raw from coughing. Not as bad warmed with a little honey. Sing it with me now: “It’s just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down….”
- Good books to read — Hunger Games Trilogy anyone?
- Hot baths
- My son asking if he could have a bubble bath and take a book in with him because, “I want to be just like you, Mommy.”
- A friend taking Em with her to the Back to School Pizza Party, since I was too sick to take her and Phil was out of town.
What about you? What are you grateful for this week?