Gratefulness helps me navigate my own belonging to our human race. I believe that gratefulness is the great unifier. I believe that if and when it’s practiced by enough people, it could bring us together in a way that we see as possible but very challenging right now, given how many things are being used to divide and distract us. ~ Noah
In the summer of 2020, while all of us around the globe were isolated in some way from those we love, award-winning photographer and filmmaker Doug Menuez found a way for us to gather safely, outdoors, to listen closely to the stories of seven individuals for whom grateful living is a way of life. The result of Doug’s beautiful work is a new video series, Grateful Voices. In the short film and narrative below Noah, who generously participated in the project, shares his story.
“I think when any of us go through trauma, we go into a variety of healing responses. Some people will isolate, some people will reach out and ask for help. I know for me, I reached out to a lot of people because I didn’t know what was going on. That was just my personality. I think the thing that’s great about the gratitude group is that it makes space for people to be quiet, but it also makes space for people to share. A lot of people are healing from grief, loneliness, all sorts of things, particularly right now. The idea that they could get in a community that’s focused on gratitude to support them…it’s important for people to know how transformative it is to practice gratitude in community.
My expression of grateful living is bringing groups together to discuss gratitude on a regular basis, which improves people’s wellbeing in a long-term way. I recently completed my masters at Antioch University in arts and social sciences and transformative learning, and my thesis focused on the impact of gratefulness gatherings. My research shows that if you participate in gratitude groups more than eight times, you’re going to have three or four times as much impact on areas that take practice — exercise, sleep, eating, mood, relationships, outlook on life.
In terms of my personality, in terms of my belief around community, for me to take care of my mood; my relationships; my spiritual, emotional, and mental and physical health, I need to be giving to a community what I need for myself. I need to keep doing this for other people to sustain it for myself. You have to help other people heal to keep your healing going. Receiving support is just as important as being able to give it because you can’t learn to give it without learning to receive it, and you can’t receive it without giving it. It’s this beautiful back and forth.
Gratefulness helps me navigate my own belonging to our human race. I believe that gratefulness is the great unifier. I believe that if and when it’s practiced by enough people, it could bring us together in a way that we see as possible but very challenging right now, given how many things are being used to divide and distract us. But for me, gratefulness is the thing that allows me to look at another person as a human being. When I think about what I’m grateful for about you, I’m looking beyond all the labels and all the self-imposed or made up or even structural barriers.
My dream and my vision for a world that has really woken up to the gratefulness that’s possible in each moment would look like small groups of people — every walk of life, every community, every continent, every culture —being able to come together around the table, around the fire, in the living room, in the community center, the church, the mosque, the temple, and to turn to each other and know that in asking each other, “What are you grateful for?” that they’re going to come to a moment where more things are possible than not.”
We invite you to share comments in the space below the video transcript which follows.
I would describe gratefulness as my ability to return to the moment and actually see something new is possible in that moment. So it’s a way to return to my breath. Remember I’m alive, that it’s a gift to be alive in any given moment, and to kind of get refocused with whatever’s happening.
How do you be grateful for the great fullness of everything that’s happening in life especially when my attention and our attention can be on so many things happening that just don’t seem right. I was about 25. At the time I was living in San Francisco, and I had moved there on a one way ticket. I had a dream of being in the Bay area since I was in high school and walking through my neighborhood one night, I was just getting towards my house, just about to get out of the car. And I was held up at gunpoint.
So what happened after the trauma of being mugged was I never felt safe in my neighborhood after that. I was always afraid that something bad was gonna happen. And I knew deep down, you know, on a spiritual and visceral physical level I needed to get out of there somehow.
So I actually had what some people would call is a manic episode, and what I would call a spiritual awakening that caused me to have to leave, to go back to the East coast, get treatment, get both medical care and spiritual care. And so that was something that happened to me. And I, I do believe that my body and my mind responded in a way to get me out of an environment that didn’t feel safe. At the same time, my whole system kind of woke up to something and what I was waking up to, what I was beginning to wake up to was being a gay man. Being my full, loving, happy, boisterous, joyful self at the same time as dealing with the whole stigma that society has on what it means to be gay in the world.
I learn from the great fullness of life, including the things that I don’t feel grateful for and the things that I do feel grateful for by really paying attention to the whole range of emotions. It’s the whole range and being able to come to that range of experience and that range of emotions, letting go of the judgment of what’s good and bad. That’s a really important way for me to enter the great fullness of life.
Thank you, Doug Menuez and team, including Executive Producer Pear Urushima, Director of Photography Luke Carquillat, and Sound Technician/Gaffer Dino Davaros, for the grace and heart you bring to your work in making it possible for the diverse stories of grateful living to be shared.
To watch more films in this series, visit Grateful Voices.
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