Walking up these old stone steps toward the Tiger's Nest monastery in Bhutan took my breath away. Literally. It's like the journey of life, which often feels so...steep and hard. And yet, of course, as a visitor to the beautiful country of Bhutan, I was grateful for this challenging path. And so, what learning have I brought home from this experience?
The older I get, the clearer I get that almost all my key learnings have emerged from hard times. Perverse, isn't it? I'm not sure why we humans seem to be wired this way. We seem to need pain in order to progress. Or at least, painful experiences seem to drag gifts along with them that are unforgettable.
Clients of mine keep illustrating this apparent truth by bringing me stories of their uphill climbs and the lessons and learnings that seem to light up for them as a result. It's as if they all were with me on my climb to Tiger's Nest, coded in the prayer flags that someone had strung up to memorialize the journey uphill.
In my work with women through my Lifting the Veils: Walking in Your True Beauty Retreats, we do a life review through the lens of the goddess (or spirited woman) who can see how our wounds created our strengths and the "original medicine" that defines our authentic power. That's something to celebrate with a few prayer flags, don't you think?
I'll give you an example. Even though I do healing work, I've had a rather uncanny amount of physical problems in my life. I've lost a lot of body parts: a uterus; both breasts; parts of my heart that were burned in a heart catheter ablation; my ovaries; part of my pectoral muscle and armpit; and my thyroid, which was radiated in July. These experiences were certainly steep uphill climb experiences. And yet, they dragged along a gift. It is now undeniably clear to me that I am more than my body. After all these losses, I am still a woman, and I am a healthy, fairly strong and flexible and very active 71-year-old. This has altered my self-image. My essence is not physical.
So, here's your gratitude challenge for Thanksgiving: Make a list of a few major challenges that have felt like uphill climbs to you. Now, assign to each one a gift that it dragged along with it. What realization or new strength was the result? What did you learn?
Try going one step farther. Whatever uphill climb you face now in life (isn't there always one?), try being grateful for it, even if you can't yet see the gift it will bring. Try having faith that, like the prayer flags strung up along the path, will encourage you. Give thanks ahead of time for what you cannot yet see.
Now, if you're able to do this with sincerity, you have gained two gifts. One is the learning you'll eventually gain from this uphill climb, and the other is the magic monastery of the heart. Like Tiger's Nest, this is the place of refuge and blessing and hope that is yours for the taking--once your realize that every tough climb does indeed get you to a destination, however unexpected.
Happy Thanksgiving and congratulations on being a spirited woman armed with the gift of gratitude.