Men Speak on Gratitude as Heart Medicine: How Sacred Medicine Can Heal Inside and Out
"Before we progress past the step of awareness as a means of connecting with and establishing a functional practice of gratitude, it is important to identify the presence of blindspots that undoubtedly lurk between the good intentions many well-meaning men have and share further on the personal power of gratitude; it’s potent data for ourselves and our communities."
In this second blog entry on the topic of cultivating an active practice of gratitude, we continue from our introduction piece, where we identify a unique opportunity for us to shed the many traditions and mindsets that have proven problematic in our communities specifically as we reintroduce ancient systems and technologies that were key historically, in times where indigenous people thrived. We also prescribe the first step to being centered in gratitude is creating an awareness of where there is a lack of it- where entitlement lives. Starting with this foundation of gratitude, we begin exploring the many ways men may re-establish a relationship with women, abandoning the oppressive & controlling nature adopted from the experience of world colonization.
Before we progress past the step of awareness as a means of connecting with and establishing a functional practice of gratitude, it is important to identify the presence of blindspots that undoubtedly lurk between the good intentions many well-meaning men have and share further on the personal power of gratitude; it’s potent data for ourselves and our communities.
Photos by: TobyDPhotographer
While there are many of us that may have never seriously reflected on the relationship we hold with our counterparts across gender, there are many progressive brothers who embrace the idea of repairing the damage created by what our media describes as “toxic masculinity,” but are unsure how that can look.
Even in the plight to enroll other men to redefine how we engage with women, we must own there has been an insidious and very purposeful machination operating since long before the modern age. The continual overall message we receive as men is that even if we are seeking to be a stand for women, conceptually there is a general feel of ownership. It is like a country going to battle to protect land versus a country going to war to fight alongside another country to push both agendas forward. I made this misstep myself in the pre-edited version of the previous entry where I made the statement, “our women”. I have made it one of my missions in life to reconnect people of color to a sense of balance that breaks the enchantment Western culture has us shrouded in, still I too found myself in a moment of programming that can be problematic foundationally. It may sound great to shout, “We must protect our women,” but if my premise is that she belongs to me, how does that inform my behavior once either our interests don’t align or a woman in my life makes a move I don’t understand?
The programming we have all been raised under requires us to be willing to hold a mirror to how this programming plays out in our daily lives. And not to be overwhelmed (Taken on all at once, it most likely will be.)
I offer that we be gentle with ourselves, knowing it is a process and simply become what I refer to as the constant gardener. All this means is that we slow down by tending to the condition of the spirit behind our motives and actions. This may be a particular challenge for us because part of this ongoing process includes accepting feedback in its many forms, including feedback from the very group of people we are realigning with. Realize the knee-jerk resistance many of us may experience from accepting we have some very fundamentally misogynistic energy that fuels our thinking is actually our gift to ourselves. This acceptance allows us the room and permission to first be compassionate with ourselves as not one of us put this programming into play to begin with. And second, it frees us up and lets us off the hook for being perfect and/or right so that we may identify and clean up missteps as they arise and our mindsets gradually evolve.
Photos by: TobyDPhotographer
Shifting into sharing about the life-altering power of gratitude; I would absolutely consider it the most underutilized superpower we have available. Most times people’s experience with gratitude entails holding your personal situation up against another in comparison to express how it could always be worse. This is a very rudimentary way of approaching gratitude that snatches us right back in the Western mentality of greater than, less than and only allows us joy through the observation that there are people who have it worse than we do. The expansive approach to gratitude has the power to supply a longstanding and reliable flow from which to draw upon in each moment, unrestricted by comparison to another.
My own tutelage on this expansive perspective on gratitude came when I was experiencing a sudden flurry of ongoing health issues. For at least four weeks I had increasingly been experiencing shortness of breath, random fever and vomiting at nights when I tried to lay down. My physician identified severe Laryngopharyneal Reflux and blamed stress as the problem. At about the second week of trying to reduce stress in conventional ways I was still often feeling dizzy most of the time and was only able to hold down vegetable broth and saltine crackers, so I also dropped 15 lbs of weight I had worked very hard to attain. I remember very distinctly how suddenly this excruciating pain emerged from beneath my right rib and in minutes traveled up my side, through my arm and up to the right side of my neck. Being in the health and wellness industry, I knew the left side was a heart attack but still went to the emergency room to discover after many tests that my liver was inflamed which was the source of stress my physician stated was the cause of my fever and digestive problem. I was treated, given instructions and sent home doped up on morphine for the pain that had me doubled over by this time. Even though I have dedicated my career to wellness, my lifetime participation in athletics has made me very familiar with physical pain but none were so extreme and constant as the pain I felt that night when the morphine wore off at about 2am. Every breath and expansion of my right lung caused me to wince. All I could do is lay on my left side, half-propped up in this uncomfortable position so I would not vomit stomach acid. It was one of my lowest points ever but as I gingerly inhaled and exhaled I began to focus less on the pain and more on the fact that I was breathing at all. I thought of the out-of-town childhood friend who became a doctor that I called when the pain became unbearable. She advised me what to say and what not to say in order to receive the best and most comprehensive care at the emergency room. I thought about my best friend Manny who met me at the emergency room when I called at 4am the previous morning and even though COVID restrictions prevented him from being able to wait inside the hospital, waited all day in a nearby park until I exited at 10:30pm that night. As I shifted and tried to get comfortable I got happy to have an adjustable massager mattress base that sat up so I wouldn’t have to fuss with pillows.
Photos by: TobyDPhotographer
I found rejoice in the seemingly coincidental event I had been to just days before where Chief Eddie of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy gifted me Sweetflag and Burdock roots, plants with the medicinal ability to respectively reduce stomach acid and cleanse the blood. I could now use these to support clearing my symptoms as my liver injury healed. Then I though of how fortunate I was to have been invited (for free) to the event that included a medicine walk where I learned about plant medicine and was gifted the roots which was a declaration I made for myself six-months prior. That recollection led me to recall how a random good deed led me to meeting the amazing woman who introduced me to the person that invited me the event that had the medicine walk. And it went on from there. Inside one of the most uncertain and physically painful times I ever had, there I was filled with gratitude as I reflected upon all the things that were working so beautifully in my life and had been for a very long time. In these moments it became so clear to me that I already have every single thing I need to complete my missions in life, even if I cannot always see it with my human brain.
The liver issue cleared but that sleepless night into morning I was prepared to accept the possibility that the severity of my illness may seriously disrupt my lifestyle, turn chronic or require additional care. The energy I generated because I was simply grateful sparked a sense of confidence, trust and positioning with life that was previously unavailable to me until I realized how entitled and ungrateful I had lived up to this point. And I own being ungrateful in the most non-deprecating manner, possible.
Photos by: TobyDPhotographer
Very few of us were taught to be grateful without holding our circumstance over someone else’s. This experience taught me how to integrate joy and inspiration inside an otherwise debilitating state of pain and anxiety and expanded the vision I have for myself and what I have to offer the vison I have for the world. And because of my gratitude being unattached to anyone other than myself, I call upon it and carry it with me as a comforter and redeemer constantly.
The power of gratitude is so rewarding I truly hope to have many more instances where I can say, “I really had no idea how ungrateful I was.”
This Gratitude Series is an initiative of Black Women's Blueprint.
Now that we have delved further into how Gratitude can be a life-changing super-tool that
expands awareness and how we may begin unraveling the twisted beliefs that invariably
accompany the sense of pride and belonging so many of us are missing as the transfoemative
piece to our well-intended glow-up as men of color. Next entry, we will continue to identify
more solid steps that will serve as a detailed guide to the ongoing process of utilizing gratitude
as the first benchmark of us collectively and individually creating a world that works for all