Category Archives: Gratitude

Some Mighty Precious Values


Skills: Gratitude, Make Beauty Not War, Recovery

from Contributor: Laura Eshelman

In the words of OutKast, every day is another [expletive]in’ holiday when you don’t have a regular job, but I still wanted to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year.  Since I missed the parade, I decided to do some individual community service by splurging a little on groceries and spend an hour or so distributing them in areas of Durham where the city’s homeless frequently gather.  With a big paper bag full of apples, oranges, and breakfast bars, I hit the streets near the main library first, hoping that I hadn’t bought more than necessary.

I needn’t have worried.  After I greeted a sizeable crowd on the curb, the bag didn’t survive a minute before it was torn apart and everyone divvied the contents among themselves.  Suddenly, there was nothing left for me to do but shrug, bid a happy day to a couple of people who thanked me, and figure out something else to do with my afternoon.

Even as I drove back to the “comfortable” part of the city (scarcely five minutes away), a growing discomfort eclipsed my Good Samaritan glow.  I’ve learned some cold realities through various interactions with people affected by poverty for equally various reasons, and thus wondered why it was at all bewildering to see those groceries disappear so quickly.  Reflecting on this encounter naturally brought up guilt about my own socio-economic privileges, but the shame seriously kicked in when I thought back to the breakfast bars I’ve personally consumed, only to intentionally throw them up afterward. “You’re an asshole,” I told the rearview mirror.

By now, I can usually dismiss the myopic rhetoric about eating disorders as “privileged illnesses” sparked by vanity.  To use them as a buttress for an argument about social stratification is, to say the least, misguided.  That’s not to say the criticism does not get still under my skin, because it does carry an icky element of truth: white, middle class women such as myself do make up the majority of those diagnosed with anorexia and/or bulimia.   Curiously, I’ve also met a number of such women through treatment who experience the same moral conundrums that rattled me.  They have doled out meals at soup kitchens, witnessed famine firsthand in Africa and Asia, and still fear the thought of pasta for dinner.

I guess part of me that day did want to get my jollies by proving that I am a “good person”, despite all the rotten stuff I’ve pulled over the years.  But as I continued to mull over this issue, I realized something else:  I also know what it’s like to be really hungry.  The visceral sensation of hunger blended with feelings of overwhelming sorrow and abandonment laced too many of my not-so-distant memories.  I left the library street corner with a recurring image of the first person I made eye contact with, a young woman whose seemingly flat stare couldn’t conceal the depths of the pain behind it.  It was a stare I became quite familiar with in the mirror a year ago when I had given up, impatiently waiting for my eating disorder to hurry the hell up and kill me off.  I do not know whether the woman was as resentful of her life as I was, but I did know enough to understand that as much as her body needed an orange, another part of her desperately needed a hug.

No one can quantify suffering. But an important variable in different types of whether one has the gift of choice to change their situation, whether they take the opportunity, and what they do with it.

Part of why I eventually revived my interest in social justice, once my thinking cleared up, is because my change in outlook forced me to find significance in my blessings:  a safe and quiet home, access to transportation, freedom from daily violence, a great education, indoor plumbing, etc .  I often compose little lists like this, but “food security” has always been conspicuously absent.  It’s not as if I don’t understand what that means.  Recent CNN footage broadcasted images of kids in Aleppo scraping the bottom of pots just for residue of food. Scores of Latin Americans travel for weeks and risk death to migrate to the U.S. for the sake of feeding their families at home.  In this same country, most states deny food stamps to many of the neediest citizens due to have non-violent criminal records for drugs, a trend with an alarming ripple effect on whole communities. In fact, Americans are the leading researchers in urban “food deserts”, a term describing zones where residents must cobble some way to get to the opposite side of town if they want to buy anything not found at a convenience or liquor store.

Before I turn this blog into a soapbox forum, what I am trying to get at is this:  by ignoring issues and behaviors that make us uneasy, we let fear override our inner wisdom.  The lesson I eventually contrived from my somewhat ironic act of kindness was that my set of values does not make good bedfellows with an eating disorder, and that peace with one of them precludes practicing the other to its fullest.  I finally got out my journal last night and wrote:  I AM GRATEFUL FOR FOOD.  Although the words did not come easily, I made sure they got out because someone with a much greater gift for eloquence gave me a push:

“My friends, all I’m trying to say is that if we are to go forward today, we’ve got to go back and rediscover some mighty precious values that we’ve left behind.”

~Dr. Martin Luther King

mauiAbout the Contributor: Laura Eshelman is a 2008 UNC Asheville alumna with a BA in mass communication.  She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in criminal justice from UC Denver and holds a master’s certificate in domestic violence studies.  Laura is an avid writer, political junkie, and an advocate for various social justice causes; at present, she is an intern with Witness for Peace Southeast and volunteers with NC Harm Reduction.  She enjoys travelling, cooking, hula hooping, and long walks up steep mountains.

My Journey Back to Me

Skills: Gratitude

From Contributor: Vanessa Schon

“Have the courage to take risks. Go where there are no guarantees. Get out of your comfort zone, even if it means being uncomfortable. The road less traveled is sometimes fraught with barricades, bumps, and uncharted terrain. But it is on that road where your character is truly tested And have the courage to accept that you’re not perfect, nothing is and no one is — and that’s OK.”

-Katie Couric 

What can I appreciate about my body today? I used to be able to list millions of things I did not like about my body – I could go on and on and on. Today, I could list millions and millions of things that I love and I’m grateful about my body.

Here are a few:

– I appreciate that today, thanks to recovery, I am healthy enough to think properly. I have nutrients in my brain, I can read, write, engage in interesting conversations, learn new things, study a career which I love. I don’t have to suffer simply to try to get through a paragraph of reading. I don’t spend hours crying in my room because I cannot get any work done because I cannot concentrate.

– I love having energy. I cannot describe how wonderful it feels to wake up every day with positive energy – ready and EXCITED to experience a new day. I have the energy to go school, to stay on time with my assignments. I have the energy to work and volunteer outside of class. I have the energy to hang out with friends – to laugh with them, to bond, to simply relax and enjoy my time with them. I have the energy to spend time with my family. My body is strong and healthy enough to exercise  – to play, to jump, to run, to dance. I have the energy to LIVE and feel alive inside. I have the energy to participate in life.

– Traveling! I have done a bit of traveling recently. Being healthy has opened up so many doors, in so many different places for me, that I have gotten to travel to different parts of the world, see different things, explore, learn and immerse myself in different cultures.

~ Identify 3 things you are grateful for today and what is your part in them?

-Today, I am grateful for my family. I am grateful for my sisters especially, and my mom – who have been by my side and refused to let me give up on myself. I wouldn’t be able to be grateful had I not reached the healthy state that I am at right now.

When I was sick, I used to be seen as the “sick” daughter, the “sick” sister. I couldn’t relate to my mom like my sisters did, and I wasn’t close to my sisters. Today, I am closer than I have ever been with my mom. My journey of healing and growth helped us both strengthen our relationship.

I am part of my sister’s lives again. Again, I can PARTICIPATE in life. They have gotten to know me again, who I am, who Vanessa is… “Vanessa’s back!” is something I began to hear a lot from my family. They had missed her.

– I am grateful for the obstacles I faced, which I now know were amazing opportunities for growth. I felt like I was climbing up a dark mountain for so many years -a mountain where I slipped, fell, took a few steps up only to fall again.

There is a quote that says “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

As I climbed the mountain of recovery, I faced my biggest fears and  insecurities head on. A lot of the times I just sat down because I was too scared to keep climbing, too scared of what was next, too scared if the view from the top was really going to be “all that worthwhile.”

After staring at the black turf for so long, I realized I had nothing to lose. I knew what the dark mountain was like but I did not know what was waiting for me at the top… so I decided to go for it. I made a promise to myself that I would keep climbing, no matter how long it would take me, or how many times I would fall and have to start climbing again, until I reached the top.

I put in to practice all of the tools I had acquired on my journey, asked for support, and went for it.

When I arrived at the top, the view was remarkable. I cannot describe the inner peace, strength and confidence that I gained in myself.  This journey has given me so much – gratitude, love and joy. If I had never climbed that dark mountain, I would not have fallen many times. I would not have bruised myself, cried, and have wanted to give up. It would have been so easy if there wasn’t a dark ugly mountain in my path. I would have been able to see what was in front of me, I would have known what was next.

At the same time, had I not had this mountain in my path, I would have never climbed (gotten stronger), reached its peak and been able to experience all of the beauty that can only be experienced from the top.

Today, I am grateful for my life. I am grateful for my journey of recovery. I don’t regret having had an eating disorder. If I had never gotten sick, I would never have embarked on such a rewarding journey of healing,  self-discovery, and empowerment. I am grateful for all of the people I have met on this journey, all of the warriors climbing their own mountains. I am grateful for everything that I have learned.

About the Contributor: Vanessa Schon is studying Psychology at the Universidad Anahuac in Cancun, Mexico.  After embarking on a journey of healing and self-discovery that began 3 years ago, today she leads an active and healthy life. Her favorite activities include writing, reading, traveling, spending time with family and friends, trail running and horseback riding. Vanessa grew up in La Jolla, California, and later spent time in Florida and North Carolina. She currently enjoys living at home with her mom, stepdad, and one of her triplet sisters in Cancun.



Skills: Gratitude

Check out this link for an insightful article on gratitude from Asheville Anusara-Inspired yoga teacher, Mado Hesselink:

Attitude of Gratitude: the why and how of positive thinking | True Self Yoga.

Attitude of Gratitude: the why and how of positive thinking | True Self Yoga

Hot Tip Tuesday: Be Thankful

Hot Tip Tuesday: Thanksgiving Edition!

I am madly in love with this website, I am thankful: Change your life with an Attitude of Gratitude, created by Asheville artist Damaris Pierce. Hot Tip for today: Spend some time on this website. Make a Thanksgiving commitment to yourself to try out a Gratitude Journal. Try it for a week. Try it for a month. Shifting attention to what is working versus what is not working on your Reclaiming Beauty journey can change everything.

In my family, we say our thankfuls together every night. My 2 year old knows the routine; after we read Where the Wild Things Are and before we turn the lights off to go to sleep he will spontaneously say to my husband and me: “Wha’chur thankful for?”

So from Joey to me to you,

“Wha’chur thankful for?”

Image: Artist Meg Winnecour


Skills: Gratitude

from Contributor: Katherine Dowdney

originally posted on her blog Blissful Body

I just had the most fabulous birthday week.  Possibly ever.  My best friend and her 9 year old son came to visit and we truly had the greatest time.  We took the pup to the dog friendly beach, savoring wonderful food, drove Highway 1 to Half Moon Bay & Santa Cruz, visited the gorgeous Redwoods, and spent lots of quality time together.  We went on a local hike and the adults were chatting about our bodies and all that comes with how we feel about them, etc.  It wasn’t too heavy of a conversation, but my good 9 year old buddy retorted to all of us something I will think of for everyday to come.  He said, “When I get out of the shower, I like to look at myself in the mirror and say Hallelujah!” He put his arms in the air when he said Hallelujah and was completely celebrating himself.  It was great.

So, everyday, instead of looking at myself in the mirror and over analyzing, or thinking of anything I want to change, I am going to say, “Hallelujah! I am here, alive, healthy and grateful!”

Image: Will & Matthew Clark, ages 8/12, Holden Beach, NC – August 2011

Thank You Body

Thank you hips for carrying me forward this morning.
Thank you legs for being strong enough to push on through the distance I choose to go.
Thank you feet for holding me, lifting me, supporting my every step.
Thank you ribs for sheltering my precious lungs.
Thank you lungs for taking in the sun-filled morning.
Thank you arms for embracing my life, for grabbing onto what is important to me.
Thank you face for feeling the wind and the sweetness of the day.
Thank you eyes for taking it all in, for keeping me centered, grounded, and here today.
Thank you brain for coordinating this amazing journey.
Thank you fingers for being able to stroke my child’s back, fingers, face, hair…
Thank you mouth for swallowing my morning tea.
Thank you heart for being so dedicated, so loyal, so loving.
Thank you soul for wanting so much more.
Thank you stomach for sorting out all that I put in, good and bad.
Thank you intestines for clearing out all that I do not need.
Thank you endocrine system for keeping me balanced, healthy, alive.
Thank you skin for containing me in one miraculous package.
Thank you hair for blowing free and helping me to dream.
Thank you neck for keeping all the communications in my life flowing.
Thank you womb for making me creative, life-producing, feminine, changing, growing.
Thank you teeth for enabling me to bite off what I like and growl at what I don’t.
Thank you ears for listening to the higher voice.
Thank you tongue for helping me to sing.
This is my beautiful body today and always.

*From Rebecca Ruggles Radcliffe, Body Prayers: Finding Body Peace–A Journey of Self Acceptance Copyright©1999 EASE.

We may be ugly, but we are here: Gratitude as a reclaiming beauty practice

Last Spring, as I was driving home from work, I heard a powerful report on NPR about the recovery effort in Haiti after the worst earthquake in the country’s history occurred January 12, 2010.  The aftermath of this devastating earthquake, which left more than 250,000 dead and up to 1.5 million homeless, truly tested the resiliency of the Haitian people. However, I was struck by the reported motto of the Haitian people in the face of this tragedy: “Nou Met Led Me Nou La!” which translates to, “We may be ugly, but we are here.”

In the context of my work with women who struggle with disordered eating and body image issues, this statement was mind-blowing. It is amazing how quickly the important aspects of life are put in perspective when reflecting on this level of human loss and suffering. And how powerful the expression of gratitude at the most basic gift of life.

For weeks after I heard this story, whenever I would hear a client struggling with their body image, the uncensored version of me would want to shout loudly: “You may be ugly, but you are here!” Luckily, I recognized that this kind of statement would most likely not communicate empathy to my clients like they are used to receiving from me. After all, I am usually the one that educates them on the various factors that make a person susceptible to negative body image including low self-esteem, societal and familial messages, biological vulnerability in the form of perfectionistic and obsessive-compulsive traits, developmental history and trauma history. With this level of understanding, I would never want to communicate a simplistic, snap-out-of-it message like: ‘Get over yourself and appreciate what you have!’ Yet, I do see a benefit in sharing this Haitian recovery motto with my clients – developing a mindfulness practice of replacing bad body thoughts with gratitude thoughts.

Bad body thoughts, no matter what their root, can become a repetitive tape in a person’s head. Eventually, people who struggle with negative body image may not even realize what triggers them to start thinking the disparaging thoughts – they have become a well-worn pathway in the brain. But the exciting truth that meditators have known from experience, and researchers are now proving, is that we can train our minds and change our brains by using mindfulness. We can replace the bad body thought pathways with new pathways of gratitude.

Mindfulness, as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgement. Using gratitude as a reclaiming beauty practice, a person becomes aware of their mind starting down the path of bad body thoughts, without judgement, and then shifts their focus to gratitude. This process creates a new mental filter of appreciation. Ask yourself: What CAN I appreciate about my body? Shift your focus from FORM to FUNCTION.

A daily gratitude practice can be a helpful tool in training your brain to shift its focus. Here are some ideas from M.J. Ryan’s book, Attitudes of Gratitude:

~ Identify 3 things you are grateful for today and what is your part in them?

~ How could things be worse? I’m glad I’m not…

~ When you are struggling, look for the “gift in the wound.” Ask yourself: How have I grown through this difficulty?

I am grateful for the blessings around me, which I can appreciate best when I am attending to them- my beautiful son and husband, our home, my family and friends, fulfilling work, a healthy back so I can move my body again, motherhood and creative outlets. In this season of giving thanks, I am happy to join in the chorus: We may be ugly, but we are here!

You are NOT ugly, but you ARE here! What are you feeling thankful for?

Please leave a comment if you feel inspired.

Tagged , ,