Being Grateful Keeps Me Grounded in Times of Trouble
His parents' divorce and a subsequent drug addiction left Will Pye feeling depressed and hopeless
Through journalling, yoga, meditation, and - above all - practising gratitude, he has overcome his struggle and is now grateful to serve others in their healing
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I was fortunate to be born to loving parents. and lucky to live in a beautiful, quiet village in the English countryside. My best friend and I would build camps, explore old barns, go on bike rides, catch fish and play lots of sports. My parents sent me to a great school.
From 11 to 13 my parent’s marriage fell apart in a fairly spectacular fashion. There was much betrayal, anger and arguing protracted over way longer than was ideal. This trauma burst my idyllic bubble of a childhood and turbocharged my differentiation and individuation from my parents.
I began to experience depression and used pot and alcohol to self-medicate. I ruled out the use of antidepressants as I felt the intentions of pharmaceutical companies were clear. It was simultaneously obvious that doctors were in no way qualified to respond to my suffering.
I attended university and then left to break my pot addiction and explore the world. Of course, I took myself, my pain and the habituated avoidance and numbing of that pain with me. It was in Australia that matters came to a head. A prolonged darkness, hopelessness and despair, fuelled in part by my self-loathing and guilt for having hurt my first love, caused me to decide to take my own life. I would write a brilliant letter that would ensure my family suffered no guilt or distress and then escape this painful body and crazy world.
Of course, such a letter proved impossible to write. I could not allow such pain to befall them and so set out to transform my body and mind, to create a life worth living.
I moved to New Zealand to launch a new territory for the charity fundraising company I had begun working for. Here I began practising meditation, yoga and martial arts. I became a vegetarian and exercised regularly. I sought help for the first time in my life and found three wise men, as it happens, to counsel, guide and support me.
As I meditated more it became clear that the depression was largely a consequence of depressing feelings, primarily anger and grief, and of depressing thoughts, about myself and the world I lived in. So, every day, morning and night, I recreated myself. In my journal I wrote a new story of myself and the world I lived in and practised gratitude. Writing in the present tense I would affirm and celebrate my best qualities – "I am kind and generous, I am focused and dedicated" – even if these qualities might be latent; I sought to nourish insight and the best aspects of my character by appreciating them now.
In a similar way I created a more helpful view of the world. I might write: "I am grateful to be living in a beautiful world of opportunity and possibility". I allowed a stream of consciousness to flow from and deeper into this core intention, to appreciate myself and the world I was living in.
Every day I would find fresh things to be grateful for and write them down. I discovered deepening practices such as writing three pages of A4, or setting the timer for 30 minutes or more, and writing "I am grateful for….and not stopping until pages filled or timer complete". At first the mind thought of 20 or 50 or so things and thought that was it. With practice I discovered there are infinite things to feel grateful for.
I studied with a Zen master, deepening my meditation, yoga and Qi Gong practices. These embodiment disciplines helped deepen my gratitude practice. Gratitude is felt and we feel in the body. It was through these explorations that I discovered the difference between speaking from my head brain, the mental body, and my heart brain, the feeling body.
I developed an interest in energy healing, the nature of consciousness and the mind body relationship. I attended dozens of conferences, seminars, workshops and completed several energy healing trainings around the world.
At 31, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Initially thought to be low grade, later clarified to be cancerous, Stage 3. From initial diagnosis, through the two years of deepened psycho-spiritual healing work, into the conscious craniotomy and beyond I have felt peace, joy, a sense of opportunity and gratitude. Gratitude for all the good and for the challenge and difficulties of life. When my mind has strayed, when depression has presented, once again gratitude has been my go-to corrective practice.
Corrective because gratitude is, I suggest, a fundamental truth of human existence. This life, this breathing, this being, this awareness, is a gift. All of it is given. In gratefully receiving, consciously gratefully receiving this breath, this very moment, we may just discover the truth of the words of another William – William Blake – from many years ago. "Gratitude is heaven itself."