I was listening to an NPR news broadcast the other day and the reporter was talking about how, now that the high intensity moments have for the most part passed, and the adrenaline has decreased, people in Houston and the other flooded areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey are just beginning to realize that the everyday things still need to be addressed amidst the backdrop of catastrophe— things like the phone bill, paying rent, “the day-to-day minutiae of normal life.”
Hearing that those dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane are beginning to remember that they have regular daily-life obligations and responsibilities really brings it home that this could happen to anyone, and that we all need to do whatever we can to help.
So maybe you’ve donated to the Red Cross, or maybe you’ve committed to daily mediations or prayers for those affected by the damage. Maybe you’re there, in Texas, giving on-site aid work.
Hearing stories of others who are suffering can bring up a lot for those standing witness. When you’re not the one in the thick of it, whether that it is a national state of emergency or just someone else’s really bad day, there are a number of ways you can help.
Our hearts go out to those suffering, we wonder how to help, maybe we take action to do so, but it’s also common to feel a sense of relief— relief that it’s not happening to you.
This is an uncomfortable thing to talk about, this relief that it’s you and not me.
I certainly have a hard time writing about it in a way that makes me feel like I’m not being completely insensitive when others are in pain, trauma, and distress. Our culture wants us to believe that in order be good, righteous citizens, we need to cloak ourselves in an empathy that equalizes us out with those suffering.
If “I feel your pain” is what society says we are supposed to say, then “I’m grateful not to be in pain myself” is what we are taught is the response of someone selfish, self-centered, and insensitive.
But here’s a different perspective:
What if feeling grateful it’s not you is actually a very loving, heart-centered, helpful state to embrace when watching someone navigate difficulty?
Hang with me here, I know this seems backward.
The thing is, it’s a natural response as humans to see something undesirable— anything undesirable, whether in another’s experience or in our own— and to feel a magnetic repulsion to it. In other words, when we see or experience something we don’t want, something that makes us feel bad, everything in our beings say, “No, thank you, please; I’ll take not that.”
So what do you do with that? Say your friend needs surgery, or is going through a breakup, or having a particularly challenging year in general— whatever the degree of trouble it may be. Chances are, your responses would be something along the lines of, “Oh no. That’s not good. I’m so sorry. What can I do?”
But laced into those words, which we may mean whole-heartedly, may be an underlying sense of gratitude to not be in that same situation as they are.
The truth of the whole life thing is that when one of us goes through difficulty, we all feel it.
Photograph by Brea Fisher
If everything is made of energy and that energy is vibration, then we are all just vibrating clumps of qi singing subtle rhythms around each other. And vibrations that come near each other will meet, making resonant or dissonant frequencies when they do.
So if your friend is all stressed out because she’s working two jobs and still unable to pay her bills, that stressy frequency is bumping into your vibration and putting a new beat in its flow.
If it’s true that everyone’s qi is always affecting everyone else’s qi, then holding space in the energy of gratitude is actually standing as a beacon for those who currently cannot take that post because they are in the thick of something dense.
The hurricane in Texas, the monsoon flooding in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, the wildfires in Oregon, Montana, and Idaho— the other, innumerable ways in which the world is in turmoil right now--
What can you do to help?
You can feel grateful.
Counting your blessings while others are suffering is not a selfish act.
Counting your blessings while others are suffering is an act of compassion.
Counting your blessings makes everyone richer.
When you count your blessings you put to the forefront of your awareness all the reasons why life is beautiful, good, and worth living. Going into gratitude changes your energy field and you instantly begin to throb out a higher quality of vibration. And this new, brighter, finer vibration affects the collective frequency of the whole.
When you're in a habit of counting your blessings and you’re appreciating that your body is working well, that your life is rolling along, that you’ve got a home and friends and people who support you, those points of gratitude all do something huge: they make space for you to actually go out into the world and do something to help your fellows.
Counting your blessings inspires you to get up and take action toward helping others in situations less fortunate than your own.
There are those who are in great pain, difficulty, and turmoil right now. The people in Houston whose houses have been flooded, whose cars have been washed away, whose loved ones are missing— these are your global neighbors.
The next time you hear about someone in trouble and you think, What can I do to help?, you can begin by counting your blessings.
And do it without a trace of guilt about having while others have not. Life is ever in flux. You may be down when they are next up.
Make counting your blessings a sacred act— consecrate it as a practice of service.
And then see what you feel inspired to do out in the physical world, to help further, from that place.
Let yourself feel grateful for your blessings when others are experiencing hardship. Don’t make yourself wrong for the subconscious “I’m glad it’s not me” response. Recognize that it could be you, and realize that when you’re vibrating out a frequency of appreciation, you’re far more likely to be inspired to take action and get out there to help others in other, more concrete ways, also.
Celebrating that it’s not you this time, is actually being true to the natural response of your spirit— to be grateful.
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