By: Danielle Wilson
Gratitude. It’s an emotion, a sensation, a gift that manifests in a way which makes our hearts grow three times their own size. We can spend time listing off the many things and people we know to be grateful for in life like friends, family, our homes, our jobs, our food, but actually embodying gratitude in mind, body, and spirit is an endeavor that requires so much more. In order to bring the magic of gratitude to life, we must first allow love to fill our hearts and shine vibrantly from our souls, as gratitude can only grow in the presence of all-encompassing, genuine love.
Three years ago, on Thanksgiving Eve, I had my heart broken. The person I had been building and planning my life with left me and my entire world, as I knew it, came crumbling down. My holiday weekend quickly turned into a three-day crying bender. I grieved the loss of my partner and the loss of a reality, a future, I had invested every ounce of myself in. While my family members went into their typical holiday food comas, I was left with one of the most intense emotional hangovers I’ve ever experienced, along with some pretty traumatic memories that completely tainted my perspective of the holiday season.
Looking back, I can see where I immediately attempted to protect my heart by building impenetrable walls around it. You know, the age old “you can’t get hurt if you don’t let anyone in” gambit. As life moved forward and I remained unaware of how closed off my heart had become, I couldn’t ignore the void I felt each time the holidays rolled around. I’d always been blessed with a wonderful and supportive family, a roof over my head, and delicious food on my table, but the stinging pain I was so keenly reminded of blinded me to the many blessings that didn’t dissipate with the loss of my relationship.
Through a journey of Self, the undying love of my tribe, and the incredible community of yogis I happened to fall into, I slowly started to tear down those ironclad walls around my heart. I began to notice how the more I opened my heart to the endless love around me, the more gratitude I felt for the new life I’d built. At first, this sense of gratitude lent itself to the more obvious aspects of life: family, home, pets, friends, etc. But then, the more I allowed myself to love and be loved, the more I found myself feeling grateful for the nuanced aspects of life: interactions with strangers, natures gifts of plants and sunshine, even happy little accidents that led to interesting adventures—love opened my eyes to the beauty and blessings that lived in between the cracks, it magnified them and began to fill my heart in a way I’d missed out on for so long.
As my heart grew in vulnerability and love flowed freely within me and around me, the holidays began to shine brightly once again. I realized the emptiness I once felt was not due to the loss of a person or a potential future, it was a void of love, and therefore, a lack of gratitude. This year, not only am I stepping into Thanksgiving feeling grateful for that which I hold dear, as well as the many people and experiences that come in and out of my present moment in a casual fashion, I am sending love and gratitude to anything and anyone who has caused me pain. My heart has been filled exponentially, allowing me to feel grateful for the heartbreak I once endured, for the person I lost in the mix of it all, as well as the future we planned that seemed so sweet. The truth is, all the pain I’ve ever endured has blessed me with new lessons and opportunities which have molded me into the person I am, today. I’ve realized that love and gratitude are not, and should not be, forces that discriminate. What’s remarkable is that as I watch myself send gratitude towards the tough things in life—the pain, the suffering, the emptiness—the more radiant my appreciation for everything else becomes.
I invite you to open your heart this holiday season. Open yourself to feel love, to give love and to receive love freely, and without discrimination. When you do, you’ll watch gratitude blossom within you with such potency, you won’t be able to ignore the joy it brings to even the smallest aspects of your life! Love is the medicine that heals, and gratitude is the force that reminds you just how fortunate you were to heal in the first place. Let them be the gifts that create miracles for you this year!