Have you ever heard the phrase, “love is oxygen for the soul”? Did you know that psychology is considered the study of the soul? What does any of that have to do with gratitude? Well, believe it or not, gratitude is considered to be “fuel for the soul” (& when you become a student of gratitude, you realize art is an invaluable source of that oxygen and fuel).
Viewing gratitude through the lens of art can make us more wonderful members of team-humanity.
Now, when you hear the word gratitude, does an immediate definition come to mind, or do you just have a general sense of being appreciative (or having appreciation) for something? For me, gratitude is also a feedback mechanism, confirming that we’ve enriched somebody else’s life (or somebody has enriched ours). And on top of that, gratitude is a need that humans have (both to give and receive).
Since part of thriving as a member of team-humanity means participating in a perpetual cycle of giving and receiving gratitude, let’s make some gratitude-circle art (& practice giving and receiving gratitude, at the same time.)
In AWBW’s “Windows Of Gratitude” workshop series, prompt #7 invites us to honor our ancestors (& create verbal and visual representations of received generational strength that we are thankful for). So how about we start by imagining a gratitude-circle?
Now that we have the circle in mind, how about we practice giving & receiving gratitude in a way where everyone’s needs are attended to? My favorite gratitude delivery-system, “empathic communication”, shows us that a super effective way to give a gratitude is by:
- saying what the person did
- saying how we feel about it and
- saying what needs of ours were met
So if someone changes their plans to help us, we could say, “When you changed your plans to help me out, I felt so appreciative, as it really met my need for help (& to know that I’m cared for).” Holy cow, I teared up just thinking about hearing that. How did it land with you?
When you get comfortable giving empathic gratitudes, the same thing could sound like, “Thanks for shifting things around to help me. I appreciate the love.”
Now, receiving gratitude is a whole different ballgame, right? First off, most of us were bombarded with “be humble” messages (said by people who didn’t fully explain/understand what soul-work looked like). Second, we modeled phrases like “no problem”, “don’t worry about it”, “no big deal”.
But it is a big deal. It’s fuel for our very soul.
So when we receive an appreciation on the gratitude-circle, empathic communication guides us to:
- acknowledge what was said
- express how we feel hearing it and
- share the needs that were met
Which might sound like, “Hearing you say that, I feel extremely happy. I really wanted to help, so I’m so glad I was able to.”
And, once you find flow, it could be as simple as “Glad I could help” or “I receive your appreciation fully.”
What’s going through your mind right now? Are you noticing times when neither the giver or the receiver were in harmony with empathy? Are you seeing how there is no true circle of connection without heart-felt reception? Are you ready to spread your wings (& fly), when it comes to Windows (& circles) of gratitude?
Here’s my empathic response to prompt #7 of this series:
Thank you! Thank you for the ladder you’ve built, the wisdom you’ve left, and the examples of perseverance and empowerment you’ve passed down from generation to generation.
I feel grateful, humble, sad, confident, hurt, empowered and painfully joyful. As you have gifted me with protection, freedom, dignity, safety and the ability to offer offenders mindful-empathy. And I pledge to pay it forward, build on the foundation you’ve left, and offer it in a way where it can be transformed more effectively going forward.
For that, I am forever thankful (emaste: emaho + namaste)
SiMBa (spirit, mind, body, with inspiration & abundance mixed in…aka Tony ‘The Empathy Guy’ Scruggs)
Art can be an effective tool in practicing gratitude (& viewing gratitude through the lens of art can make us more wonderful members of team-humanity). One reason gratitude is important to me is because it enables me to access parts of my being (like love) that are blocked (or more difficult to get to) when I’m NOT in an “attitude of gratitude”. So “selfully”, gratitude has become my compass/flashlight/navigation system, when my mind is a foggy maze of blah. Feel me? What’s your “one reason” gratitude is important?
Empathy Coach (NVC)
Los Angeles, California
Use these gratitude journal prompts to explore what you’re grateful for.
Download Gratitude Journal Download Prompt #7
Want to help others view gratitude through the lens of art?
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A Window Between Worlds (AWBW) supports hundreds of direct service organizations across the country to incorporate creative expression into their work with trauma survivors. With this blog we uplift the voices of our art workshop facilitators and participants. We invite you to take in this perspective, notice what resonates and explore how it may fit into your life.