This is the eighth of 10 posts I’m writing about how to combine gratitude and compassion for a happier life.
I’ve come up with a simple 4-part framework for combining gratitude and compassion, and I’m sharing how to do that using 10 different examples in 10 posts. In each post I focus on a different area of gratitude as a jumping off point.
This series was all sparked by a remarkable finding from brain research as expressed by Dr Amit Sood of the famous Mayo Clinic:
“Because of the way your brain works, the pursuit of gratitude and compassion will make you happier than the pursuit of happiness itself.” – Dr Amit Sood
This insight has really made me think about so many aspects of my life.
How can I implement this in practice to turbo-power my happiness? How can we all?
Let’s explore that!
This week my gratitude reference point is Great Teachers and Mentors…
I’ve been blessed over the years to have had many great teachers and mentors to help guide me on my path. Some I’ve met personally and with whom I’ve formed deep and long-lasting bonds. Others have entered my life in the form of a book that’s presented to me at just the right moment… or a workshop, or even a film.
When I was in my early 20s I went through a very rough patch. I was carrying many unresolved emotional wounds from my childhood and I didn’t know how to heal them. Some of the wounding incidents I couldn’t even remember at that time – my mind had repressed the memories because they were so traumatic.
All I knew was that I would cry inconsolably for hours nearly every night, until I fell into an exhausted sleep. That was a bad time… But it was when the crying stopped that things got even worse. I feel into a deep depression and began losing my will to live. Lost in a dark hole, I didn’t have any answers about how to dig my way out.
I didn’t want to kill myself, but I also didn’t want to live. That’s a terrible no-man’s land. There’s a lyric from a Robbie Williams song that’s always expressed for me what that time felt like – “I don’t want to die, but I ain’t keen on living either.”
Soon enough my body tried to resolve the conundrum for me, and I landed in hospital with a mystery illness that the doctors couldn’t diagnose. The symptoms were real, they just couldn’t figure out why it was happening. Everything I ate just passed straight through me without giving me any nourishment. I was wasting away. In a diaper. It was not pretty.
On some deeper level I did know why: I felt like I was literally willing the life force to leave my body.
While I was in hospital, someone gave me a copy of “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay. In her book, Louise described how she’d healed her own body from cancer… an illness which she traced back to the long term emotional effects of terrible childhood abuse.
That book was a glimmer of hope in the darkness for me, and I latched onto it with both hands. Within a week of putting into practice the teachings of the book, I was out of hospital and beginning to piece my life back together. It was a massive turning point for me.
(Fast forward, and perhaps you can appreciate the overwhelming sense of gratitude and synchronicity that came with Louise Hay’s publishing company, Hay House, offering to publish my own book “The Abundance Code” in September 2015).
Out of compassion for my pain and suffering, a kind soul gave me that copy of Louise Hay’s book… and it marked the start of a long journey of healing, and of meeting and learning from many other wonderful teachers and mentors.
A couple of years later I met an Indian spiritual teacher named Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) – a remarkable woman who travels the world hugging people. She’s sometimes known as The Hugging Saint. Amma taught me so much about inner healing just through her unconditionally loving and motherly embrace. It was (and still is) a salve for my soul. Words cannot express the depth of my gratitude to this wise and special Being.
My interest was awoken in healing, spirituality, the wisdom teachings of great masters, and in how to apply those principles in my life to evolve. I devoured the teachings of people like Dr. Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay, Florence Scovel Shinn, Dr Joseph Murphy, Dr Deepak Chopra… and Eastern wisdom teachers like Nisargadatta, Yogananda, Amma and Ramana Maharshi.
More recently, I’ve been in a mastermind of like-minded entrepreneurs for several years that was formed by my mentor Jeff Walker, which has been a deeply enriching experience.
I’ve met many amazing teachers and fellow travellers on my journey of evolution. They’ve encouraged, inspired and supported me so much. AND I’ve become a lifelong learner. I’m nowhere near done yet!
In recent years I’ve become a teacher of sorts myself, passing along some of what I’ve learned in my book “The Abundance Code” and in the film of the same name, which I directed.
I’ve come to truly believe something that one of the experts in The Abundance Code film, Satyen Raja, said:
“It’s important to be both mentored and to be a guide.”
In other words, never stop learning from others, but also don’t be afraid to share what you’ve learned already in whatever way you can.
“It’s a give and receive role, give and receive” Satyen says.
That completes the circuit, which then turbo powers your evolution and your abundance.
I’m so grateful for all of the amazing teachers and mentors I’ve been able to learn from in my life. I’ve received so much healing, so much wisdom and so much grace.
I’ve been blessed.
Sometimes it’s hard to be receptive to wise counsel or to take on board someone else’s great advice because we feel ashamed of what we don’t know. Or… sometimes it’s hard to be receptive because of what we think we already DO know.
Ever tried sharing insights with someone but it seems like all they can say is “Yeah but…”? Ready with so many reasons why it doesn’t apply to them, it’s obvious they’re not really listening to what you’re saying.
When that happens, most people stop trying to help. The person is not open or receptive, so what’s the point?
Being receptive doesn’t mean that you automatically take everything on, or that you don’t weigh things up carefully before taking action. Being receptive just means that you listen intently with an open mind, ask questions, seek clarification and really make an effort to absorb and understand the knowledge and experience that’s being offered to you. Then, and only then, can you assess whether it applies to you or not and whether you want to take it on board.
Some people shut the advice and teaching down right away with “yeah but” before they even give it a chance. Either because they don’t want to admit that they haven’t got a total grip on the situation and they actually do need help, or because they think the advice being offered doesn’t apply to them (because they know something the other person doesn’t) so they don’t need to listen to it. And hey, sometimes that’s true. But you won’t ever be sure about that if you don’t truly listen first.
One of the keys to being able to learn from great teachers and mentors is having an attitude of humility… the ability to take on new ideas, revise old ideas and sometimes let go of them completely. The ability to own the fact that you don’t know everything, and to even feel excited by that. There’s so much to learn! So many amazing wonders yet to discover!
This is attitude is known as having a ‘beginners mind’.
There’s no shame in not knowing everything already. How boring would life be if there was nothing new to learn?
Being curious and open to new knowledge is a very good thing. (Haha… despite having been told that curiosity killed the cat! Don’t believe that…)
Be curious. Be open. Ask questions.
This is based on a Buddhist practice called Metta. It involves imagining sending ‘loving kindness’. What’s that? I imagine it to be like the feeling you get from a loving, nurturing hug.
Firstly, for all the times in my life that I’ve shut down good advice or not really listened, I send loving kindness to myself. For all the times that I didn’t explore their counsel in a meaningful way because it contradicted my own pre-formed beliefs… I send loving kindness to myself. I know there have been times when I’ve acted like an insufferable ‘know it all’… and I forgive myself for that.
(The practice of compassion always begins with the self. If we can’t practice self-compassion then it’s going to be very hard for us to have compassion for others.)
Secondly, for all the people I love, respect, and admire… I send them loving kindness for all the times their advice and loving guidance fell on deaf ears. And for the times when they felt too defensive or ashamed to admit they didn’t have it all figured out, and thus couldn’t be open or receptive to guidance from others, I send them loving kindness.
Thirdly, for all the people I don’t even know who may be struggling in this way… I send loving kindness. For all the people I do know but don’t have much of a relationship with, who may also be struggling with this… I send loving kindness. If they’re having trouble receiving guidance that they really do need, I send them loving kindness. If they’re in pain because their own wise guidance is being rebuffed by those they’d love to help, I send them loving kindness.
Fourthly, for all the people I know who actually irritate me, or people that I’m currently having issues with whose loving guidance may also be going unheard, or unaccepted… I send them loving kindness. If they’re struggling to receive guidance themselves, I also send them loving kindness
What can I do this week to put it into action? How can I express my gratitude for being blessed with some wonderful teacher and mentors, while at the same time practice compassion for myself and others who sometimes are too closed to receiving or hearing all the wonderful guidance that’s offered?
This week, I pledge to LISTEN. I mean, really really listen when someone is offering me pearls of wisdom. And to actively seek out the counsel of wise teachers.
I went to a talk by Dr John Demartini in Sydney a couple of nights ago and took pages and pages of notes. Dr Demartini was one of the people we interviewed for The Abundance Code film, and he is a GREAT teacher of modern wisdom. Truly remarkable. I soaked up his words, wrote down all the things that resonated for me (which was a LOT) and I plan to re-read my notes and reflect on them this weekend.
I’m so grateful to be able to access the teachings of people like Dr Demartini.
On the compassion side, I pledge to look for opportunities to serve others by sharing things that I’ve learned. And if my words or offerings are not well received, or are being rebuffed, then I pledge to not take that personally.
I also pledge to not stop trying. I’ll look for another way or another opportunity. Just because someone rejects my help today, I hope that I’ll resolve to gently try again with them another time. I’m not going to badger anyone with unwelcome advice… but I don’t want to abandon them to their own devices forever just because they aren’t open to receiving some loving guidance today.
What can you do to combine gratitude and compassion this week?
Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know if this post has helped you!
To YOUR Abundance,
Julie Ann Cairns