Last night I wrapped up a book that sat on my bookshelf for 4 years before I had the courage to start reading. You see, it was too close to me, the story and the subject. Written by the husband of a former yoga student, Andrew Bienkowski tells the story of his experience of being deported as a young boy from Poland to Siberia in 1939 by the Stalin government. Despite banishment, starvation, and inhumane treatment, most of his family survived, reunited, and emigrated to the United States where Andrew became a Clinical Psychologist.
Visiting their home once, I was impressed by the meticulous organic garden, brimming with herbs and vegetables, the gracious lunch we shared from the garden’s bounty, and the compassion behind Andrew’s smiling eyes. Radical Gratitude: And Other Life Lessons Learned in Siberia is a guide to becoming a person with the power to change her own paradigms. That was the reason it took me so long to crack open the book . . . I knew I would dare myself to change my ways of thinking and being. Again.
There was a quote near the end of the book by Alan Alda that has become my momentary mantra. Here is the expanded version:
“Be brave enough to live creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You cannot get there by bus, only by hard work, risking and by not quite knowing what you are doing. What you will discover will be wonderful: Yourself.”
That pretty much sums up the last few months of my journey, and amazingly, a dozen other creative types have found me and held out their arms in welcome. They’ve already stepped into the wilderness and are making it up as they go along, producing art in their own whimsical ways, or teaching others how to live their best lives.
Last week I visited an art gallery and another flower/art show, and was sated with color and textures and creative genius. Writing, crafting, and photography are my mediums of choice right now for expressing the gratitude I feel for the unique way my life’s journey has played out so far. What are yours?
Think: What experiences in life have you never gotten over? Is it possible to look back through the lens of gratitude for any blessings that came out of your experience? A psychologist or social worker may make a good guide in your journey towards emotional healing.
Say: Make a list of 10 challenges you’ve faced in your life. Then make another list of 10 blessings for which you are grateful.
Do: Create a piece of art that depicts your life journey, with all its twists and turns. Share it someone trustworthy while you tell your story.