(Sorry this wasn’t posted first thing this morning, but Mom was in hospital all week and just got home last night, so it’s been a bit hectic on this end. At least it’s later in the week, so if you’re already well into your day you can save this and do this one on Saturday or Sunday.)
How perfect that we’re doing a series of exercises around ‘gratitude’ and almost immediately we run into the American Thanksgiving holiday! And since I have readers all over the world, let’s take this opportunity to share thanks with them. And this year it seems pretty clear what we can be most immediately thankful for.
In 2020, the people facing the most risk, doing the most important thing in all of our societies, are those among us who educate, supply and work within the world’s medical systems. But that is a big, fuzzy target for our meditation, so let’s focus ourselves.
The first thing we need are meditation parameters. When does our meditation start and when does it stop? So we want to actually think about our day now, and find these times in it, so we can remember to utilize them when we get there. I would suggest that we choose either idle time, mindless tasks, or those times where a lot of our functions are performed so often that we don’t need our full conscious to do them.
These include things like waiting, riding in elevators, cleaning, walking the dog, or doing laundry. We could also possibly include driving too if we’re still paying attention and are on a well-known route. They can be one minute long or 30 minutes long, the value is in our focus.
Once we have our meditation opportunities defined, we can choose from a variety of focuses for each ‘session’ of gratitude. We want to think deeply about these things. Even just a needle with a drug needs someone to mine the metal for the needle, it needs to shaped, quality controlled, then it’s shipped and delivered and used without almost any thought given to how remarkable that fact is.
If just one needle is that complex you can see we have a lot to be grateful for. To help you find more, I will list a few examples to help get you started:
1) We can choose to consciously thank all of the people from history that made all of the little discoveries that add up to the total medical knowledge or that created the medical tools that are being used to care for people in hospitals throughout the world.
These include people like Ignaz Semmelweis, who proved that hand-washing killed germs. Or Florence Nightingale, who invented epidemiology. Or Marie Curie, who helped us understand the base sciences that are used for things like X-rays etc. Without the benefit of these people’s pure curiosity, many of us would already be dead or maimed by now.
2) We can thank the inspiring parents, and Jr. and High School biology, chemistry and physics teachers. After that we can thank all of the post-secondary universities, with their professors and researchers who all contribute to the total knowledge of the doctors, nurses and other medical staff that care for us.
3) We can choose to consciously thank the people who are the cleaners and monitors in hospitals that turn these ideas into practices. In fact, today, the hospital cleaning staff and the infectious disease compliance people are likely keeping more people healthy than possibly any other group.
4) We can also thank those that work in the various labs, doing test results, And what good would X-rays or MRI’s or ECG’s or blood tests be if there were no trained people to do them? Each of these people provide critical data that our doctors need to keep us healthy and alive.
5) We can choose to conscious thank all of the people that learned and assumed the more repetitive, more personal, and most human aspects of our care, and the care of our loved ones. These are the Personal Care Assistants, the Occupational Therapists, and our Licensed, Registered and Practical Nurses, etc. Etc.
6) We can consciously consider not only our doctors and specialists, but also all of the people that motivated them to take up medicine. Maybe it was an inspiring mother, or an uncle they looked up to. Maybe someone became a doctor because they were a refugee who saw the ravages of a local war, and they saw the doctors that saved people much like wealthier nations view angels.
7) We can even thank all of the administrative and maintenance people who get the buildings built, ensure they are maintained and upgraded, and that help to ensure all of the people noted above are well trained and paid.
Today, we can also be grateful that all of those professionals have access to all of the supplies they need to succeed. Thanks to the pandemic, all of us have learned how truly important having masks, or pipette tips, or test tubes really is.
The simple fact is, throughout our lives we have gone to this history, this training, these resources and these acts of compassionate care at any time something really important was going on. From curing a disease, to repairing an injury, to easing our suffering, they even ensure our children are born in a safe and healthy environment.
Amazingly, almost all of those people do what they do all because they are driven to. Most of them will never meet the people they save. In this way, the pandemic becomes an opportunity. We all utilize those health systems our entire lives, and at no time will those people ask us if we are deserving, nor will they ask for anything in return.
(I realize the unique system in the US means that private insurance or direct payment does slightly skew that relationship but, in basic terms it still holds true. It’s just that other nations share the cost among everyone, and in the US it’s a more personal expense than a public one.)
However they are paid, most doctors would all still do most of what they do even if they were unsure they would be paid, because that impulse is what drove them to want to be doctors.
Now, for the first time in the last 100 years, they are asking us to do something to show our gratitude –they would like us all to social distance, wash our hands regularly, and to wear masks. We’re right back to the early wisdom Ignaz Semmelweis and his revelation about the value of protecting others from pathogens.
Find your sections of time. Then think earnestly and deeply about all of the millions of little things that add up to even the most basic action in a hospital. Inventions, procedures, training, manufacturing. Each of these things combine to, more often than not, keep us alive.
It’s a stunning contribution to the quality of our lives, and yet for the most part we’re only grateful for a short time, and really only when we’re relieved to be going back home. But it’s a good thing for us to stop and recognize when a group of people have worked together to ensure that we have any future at all.
I’m going to start right now, by thanking all of the people that contributed to all of the modes of care that my mother recently experienced in hospital. Her needs were above our family’s capacity, and so it was those remarkable and kind health care workers in Emergency, and in Unit 5D2, that turned our family’s love into practical care. It may not have overtly looked like, or felt like love, but in the end, it did what love does. It cared.
If we do this right, we should end the day feeling truly fortunate. Because all we have to do is imagine having any major issue in the middle of a jungle, near no care at all, and we can suddenly appreciate how much must come together to save a human life, or our quality of life.
These are all things that are easy to be grateful for. We merely need to turn that intention to be grateful into an activity in our day. In that way, gratitude can become a healthy, spiritually selfish act of self-care. So don’t forget to enjoy it.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.