Kris August

Celebrating the Interconnectedness of Life

November 2023

Finding Compassion Through Gratitude

Gratitude is a powerful way to combat feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, and depression. It has been proven to help lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve sleep. Even knowing all those benefits, the act of finding something to be grateful for can be challenging when things feel hopeless. Sometimes all it takes is a smile from a person at the grocery store or a hint of birdsong through the trees.
Gratitude is not a form of “toxic positivity.” It does not gloss over the horrible things happening around us. In fact, expressing gratitude can be a conscious effort not to be blinded by the trauma of all the imperfections and negative images surrounding us. It helps us to see beyond to the good that is still out there quietly carrying on.
Around the world, people are persecuted, treated unfairly, and judged for who they are, whether it is their race, culture, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or other differences. Understanding that there is past trauma and hurt behind so much of this behavior can help but does not excuse it. Focusing on these differences removes the humanity, the connections, and the feelings we all share.
I do not pretend to understand the complexities of political and historical injustices. It is painful to witness and of course so much more painful for those personally affected. It is important to acknowledge that grief and loss and not to brush over it.
Witnessing so much struggle is exhausting. This lack of compassion spreads to the earth and impacts the treatment of animals, plants, and the environment. People just don’t seem to have the strength to care. It feels like a global case of compassion fatigue that affects our home and our living conditions as it impacts all the other creatures on this warming planet.

What can we as individuals do? How can we cultivate compassion for the earth and for our fellow human beings?

Acknowledging our own feelings of trauma, past experiences, and grief is a place to start. If we hold these feelings in, they can fester and explode causing more trauma and destruction. Self-compassion for all that we have been through can reduce some of that strain. It may not be necessary or helpful to re-live these experiences, only to recognize that they occurred in the past. This can be a difficult process and therapy is highly recommended to help support and guide this self-exploration. We may not be able to change the world on our own, but we can work to improve our personal sense of peace through practicing self-compassion and bringing moments of gratitude into our everyday lives.
I certainly have my own pains and struggles. It is nothing like what is being experienced in large parts of the world. I can only be witness to this greater pain, to listen, to try my best to understand and see the many perspectives that complicate and yet also enrich our existence.
Gratitude is a way of seeing through all this conflict and negativity. Seeking out the beauty and compassion that still exists - the constants as we continue our daily journey around the sun. For me, connecting with nature brings me back to what is real. The basic building blocks of life are all around us. Yes, there is conflict, predation, and destruction in nature, but there is also creation, rebirth, and beauty. Humans can be excessively destructive. We also have the power for incredible innovation and creation. To see both sides and seek that counterbalance to the constant negative news cycles brings me hope and is a reminder of the possibilities for new growth.
Gratitude brings us back to the present moment, providing a break from concerns of the past or future. With gratitude comes compassion and connection, something this world could use more of. Sharing feelings of appreciation can go a long way to planting seeds of peace in our communities and greater circles.
As we move into the holiday season, I am grateful for the support of friends and family, the beauty and interconnectedness of the natural world that helps to keep me grounded, and the possibilities of expanding my knowledge and experiences in this wonderful life.

Wishing you gratitude in this season of introspection. May we all find more wisdom, compassion, and understanding.