In this chapter we'll look at gratitude. I don't mean gratitude for my great house or for my beautiful car or my healthy children. That's a style of gratitude which is more associated with addiction, because if I didn't have those things anymore I would just be grumpy, upset and devastated. We don't want that. This is the dependence we create by focusing on all those beautiful things in life. We should be grateful for everything. That starts with being grateful for your problems.
Now, a lot of people know that I've been running a course called Loving Cancer. Don't focus on the word cancer too much in the title. Loving Cancer is actually a whole system. It doesn't matter whether it's cancer, a divorce, loss of a loved one or any other problem you are facing. Any problem that you have can be helped by this exercise.
The concept is simple. If you really focus and explore the bad, usually you will find a very positive opposite that comes from it or that you can gain from it. There is a concept that is underlying this principal called what you resist persists.
If you resist something that you don't like it will keep on coming back into your life. It's like it is magically attracted into your life and will pop up over and over again in repeated forms. Let's say you have a partner that is abusive or bullying and you resist it and hate it. If you don't then grow beyond it or change anything it will come back into your life over and over again. Being grateful for that experience and the lessons you learn is actually a really beautiful thing. We can do that with many different things, not just cancer.
We can start the process by dividing our attention into the seven areas of life - relationship, spiritual, mental, physical, financial, social and vocational (this is shown as a chart in the slide above). It's really helpful because if you just think things like "Oh, what can I be grateful for with regards to my problems?", then you won't find anything. But if you ask very specific questions such as "What has improved spiritually since I have been diagnosed with cancer?". That's a completely different perspective.
Maybe you started to read a book, you started to work with different communities, you started to pray, or maybe you went back to church and met with a priest and had a great talk. It can be a whole range of things that:
- have already developed,
- are about to develop,
- or you need them to develop in order to resolve that issue.
So it's something you can see is already done, is just about done, or has to happen in the future, for you to get well.
That is the principle. We divide that, as you can see in the chart, into a whole system - you can print out the chart as a PDF and start filling it in. We do this exercise in groups, and the nice thing about doing it in groups is that when you are looking at the benefits that come from a problem, other people might say something that you had never thought about before but it hits close to home. It resonates and opens up a whole range of observations that you might not have been aware of.
There is great benefit to this process. Until now, you may not have been able to see the positives and the benefits and how they connect to the seemingly negative aspects of your life. You are aware that you have them, but you haven't ever linked them together. As soon as you link them, you equilibrate the mind. It's like the right and the left sides of your mind are in balance all of a sudden. When that happens and you see the good that comes from the evil, all of a sudden it becomes neutral and becomes an opportunity in life. That's when you start looking at life from angles of opportunity, at things that you can achieve and that are really important. It's a total turnaround.
Let's have a look at some small exercises and a little story about my first client that went through this exercise with me. It was a really overwhelming experience. Let's get going with a few questions to ask yourself.
The template for the questions to ask yourself is:
- What has transformed _______ to the good since I was _______?
At the end of the sentence, fill in any kind of problem that you have.
Some examples: What has transformed spiritually to the good since I was diagnosed with cancer/was divorced/lost my child?
What has transformed could be prayer, reading, knowledge, learning, reading the Tibetan book of living and dying. It doesn't matter what it is. Just start to think all the bits and pieces, and you will be able to gain a better perspective.
For example, a lot of people when they are diagnosed, all of a sudden become conscious. It's one of the most powerful things that can happen, because usually we are just going through the motions of life. We get stuck in our routine and life passes us by. Then bang! 20 years down the track you realize that you're already 50 or 60 or 70. Life passes us so fast if we are unconscious because we just continually do the same things. We go into dream-walking mode. It's like driving from one place to another. A lot of times you don't notice that your driving. You were thinking, talking, doing all sorts of things, and then you get there. That is unconsciously doing something.
You're probably familiar with at least some of the principles of Buddhism. Such as being conscious in the moment. Being conscious with what you are doing right now. It's a very spiritual basis of being. Being present with what you do instead of doing it on autopilot.
That's the first thing that happens. You become conscious, and aware of where you invest your time and what type of people you surround yourself with. How you waste your life instead of living it.
So back to the exercise. List as many things as you can that you found you have become conscious of. Then also list the books that you've been reading, the communities that you've joined, the spiritual insights you've gained, meditation or prayer, write down everything you can think of. You will then identify quite a number of things that have already changed.
You can also say "what's about to change?" – write those things down too and then note that they are another relief that will help you grow from your experience into a different state of being.
Now let's look at relationship. I mentioned I would tell you a story. The first lady that came to me was in the very final stages of cancer. She was completely skin and bone, was carried in by her friend, and probably in the last three or four weeks of her life. She said to me "I would like to know the purpose of my disease. Why do I have it and why did I have to have it?". We went through this exercise. We went through all of the different categories, but all of a sudden when we got to relationship it was pretty obvious that it was the big issue.
When she was 15 she moved out of home. There was a big fight and she just left. Never went back. Never spoke to her parents again. She was very angry with them. From this she felt compelled to prove how good she was, to prove who she was. And she did. She went through university completely on her own and became a very famous surgeon. She was really powerful and headstrong, but she held a lot of anger and resentment towards her parents. This is what held her, motivated her and drove her all her life. To prove that she was worthy of love, worthy of recognition.
But when she was diagnosed, she actually had no one to turn to. She had two marriages, both of which ended in divorce. She had no contact with her children, siblings or parents. I'm sure you can already see the pattern. She was constantly striving to prove her worth without accepting other people.
When she finally connected with her loved ones it was actually received with open arms, the whole family was really happy. They had already tried to connect with her many times before this, and when she finally returned it was like the lost child had come home.
When she went to see her parents she learned her father had developed Alzheimer's. He had not recognized any of the family for a long time. However, when she walked into the room he actually recognized and embraced her. It was the most beautiful experience for her to see that he was just waiting for her to return.
The rivalry, resentment, and anger which brooded within her all of her life, all of a sudden faded into nothing. Now the family were taking care of her.
In this lady's case, that realisation was actually her main repair mechanism. She started to communicate with her husband and got back in touch with her children. Her whole life changed when we started to list the positives, what she had gained, like being able to talk to someone or being able to share her feelings. We had about 100 or 110 on the list, just in the relationship area.
For you that might not be your problem. You might have different issues like not feeling worthy enough, not feeling adequate, not living up to someone else's expectation or not being clever enough. All of those things will drive you through life. However after you have been diagnosed and realize what transforms and changes, that is actually a repair mechanism. From then on there is no more doubt and no more hesitation. Your subconscious mind starts to repair.
Think about it, we expect people, when they get their diagnosis from their doctor, whether they have 6 months or 3 months left, to just head out, take their money, and go somewhere on holiday and celebrate and party for the remainder of their life. I haven't seen that happen one single time.
People start to frantically search for solutions. They start to mend. They start to repair. They start to change. It can be different things. It's not always the benefit of getting well. Sometimes it's the benefit of having someone to visit or having someone to resolve an issue with. It doesn't always need to be focused on healing. It's about getting the biggest benefit from it and resolving all the issues that were there.
Once you realise that this is an automatic process – a survival instinct that is called forth – you're on the right track.
So just sit down and think now: "What has transformed physically since I have been diagnosed?" When you look at all the physical changes, don't only focus on things like feeling sick, having low energy, think about things like I your body detoxing, your mind clearing up, whether you can think a lot clearer, maybe you actually listen to your body now. You might be able to detect smaller changes like can you feel sensitivities to specific foods as it steals your energy.
Let that consciousness flow in. It's actually one of the main things that you need to look out for while you go through this exercise. Coming from an unconscious sleepwalking state into a conscious state is one of the main attributes that everybody finds. Isn't that worth living? Is that not being alive instead of dreaming and sleeping? and doing the same thing you've done 2000 times already? Doing things differently might cause a little bit of stress, but that can already be the solution that you needed in order to get well.
So, have fun with this exercise. You'll know when you get there. When you've written down 200 benefits and you get to that place where you're truly grateful for your disease, you'll have a tear of inspiration. Something that will put you into that silent mode. That's when you know you've achieved it. The world around you all of a sudden stops. You don't need to think any more. You're just in that peaceful place now. That's the result of doing this exercise. It's one of the most powerful ones that you will learn on your whole healing journey.