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Think it over

Gratitude — the great attitude Part 1

Mira Prabhu


Circuitous thoughts of worry and fear can literally drive us mad. As the author discovered via an angel named Grace, positive thinking is nothing less than white magic. Grace told her to list five things that made her happy the moment she awoke… read how this simple practice transformed the author’s life.

I owe a colossal debt of gratitude to a woman I shall call Grace whose kindly face, hennaed hair, hooked nose and elfin green eyes still come with great affection to mind. I met her over a decade ago, at a friend’s potluck dinner in Eugene, Oregon — a fairy tale town where I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a hobbit come frolicking down a narrow winding road, yodelling a hey-ho-happy-to-be-alive kinda song.

Instead of enjoying this slice of paradise, however, my thoughts had begun to stray obsessively into the future — specifically on the looming prospect of having to leave Eugene for south India, where I’d set in motion the construction of a beautiful home for myself. What had I been thinking? My radical ways had taken me way out of the Indian mainstream — and when, for God’s sake, had I ever fitted into my conservative community? By now, however, huge amounts had already been paid towards this dream dwelling and I felt I had no option but to suck it up and go with the flow.

My reluctance to return to India grew intense as I grew to love the open-hearted folk of Eugene. To de-stress, I regularly used the tools I’d acquired — yoga, meditation, writing, hiking, hanging out with friends and singing with my guitar. But at night, the demon of anxiety would fly in through the window in a flurry of dark wings and sit triumphantly on my chest, feeding greedily on my prāṇā. Soon enough, the blues settled like a toxic mushroom cloud over my frazzled head.

One night I wandered into the backyard of a friend’s place and spied a woman sitting alone at a picnic table beneath a star-speckled night sky. That woman was Grace. I’d heard it said she was an urban healer who worked for free, helping anyone regardless of age, gender or race.

Grace welcomed me with a big smile. She said she’d always dreamed about visiting India with her husband, who’d been fascinated by the ancient rishis of India and our Vedanta philosophy. But he’d died of a sudden heart attack twenty years ago as he was biking along the Willamette River and the bottom had dropped out of her world.

“Cara says you’re a healer,” I said on impulse. “My mind’s been driving me insane. Would you give me some herbs to help me sleep?”

Grace placed a gentle hand on my arm. “What are you so worried about?”

Suddenly I was spilling out the circuitous and paranoid thoughts that continually harassed me. “Well, honey,” she said, after I’d run out of steam, “I used to be the biggest worrywart you can imagine. Went to pieces after my husband died, could barely get out of bed.” Moonlight revealed the lines suffering had etched into her face. “Know how I turned things around?” Glumly I shook my head. “A friend suggested I help out at the local hospice. I met a patient there… dying the most painful death yet still a magnet for both patients and staff. He told me his secret — that he’d trained himself to always look on the bright side. If I wanted to be happy again, he said, I should start my day by listing five things I was grateful for.”

“And this worked?” I asked dubiously.

“Sure it did, honey!” she cried. “It’s white magic is what it is, this positive thinking.” She lowered her voice to a dramatic whisper. “Tell you what… I’ll be your gratitude sponsor. Call me every morning for the next month and give me a list of five things you’re happy about. Wanna give it a shot?”

I lay in bed next morning forcing myself to drum up those cursed five things for Grace. But I honestly could not conjure up a single one. Then I heard someone talking on the street below my window. I poked my head out and saw the quadriplegic philosopher who lived down the street being pushed in his wheelchair by his wife. Omigod! At least I had all my limbs and my faculties — little the worse for wear, perhaps, but still in pretty good shape.

I struggled to come up with number 2. Hmmmm… unlike so many others who’d taken the road less travelled, I’d managed to save enough to retire in the East. Wasn’t that another ginormous reason to be grateful? Then I considered my passion for writing — hours would vanish into the ether as I poured my heart out in words. Which made three. And what about the organic broccoli and Lundberg short-grain brown rice I planned to cook for brunch? Seasoned with Japanese toasted sesame oil, cracked red pepper, olive oil and a dash of tamari, it was my current favourite health food. Hey, that made a total of four things to be happy about!

I jumped out of bed, showered and pulled out my yoga mat, anticipating the deep relaxation I’d soon feel. And that made five — the fact that I’d learned how to calm body and mind with yogic techniques and meditation. How many millions are condemned to seek comfort from a drink, a joint, shopping, sex or whatever, when their minds are giving them hell?

Bizarro, but already I was feeling much lighter. I dialled Grace’s number and blurted out my five things. I could feel her smiling on the other end. “Oh, that’s wonderful, honey,” she said. “Enjoy your day and call me tomorrow. And don’t forget to jot down those five things you just rattled off to me, okay? Keep a gratitude journal — and that’s an order!”

(To be continued)

(Originally posted as The Spider & The Blue-Throated God on:

Mira Prabhu is a writer and novelist based in Tirruvanamalai, India. She blogs at

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