Gratitude as Huge as a Whale

“It is man’s sympathy with all creatures that first makes him truly a man.” —Nietzsche-

Although lots of people came across this story several years ago in the San Francisco Chronicle, I only read it for the first time recently, and was really moved. It’s a true story about a humpback whale that was rescued off the coast of San Francisco on the 11th December, 2005. Basically, it said that a female humpback, 50 feet in length and weighing an estimated 50 tons, had become snared in crab pot lines while traversing the usual migratory route between the Northern California coast and Baja California

A rescue team was hastily assembled, and it was determined that the imperiled whale was so badly hurt and entangled, the only way to save her was to dive beneath the surface and cut the nylon ropes that were ensnaring her.

The 4 divers spent about an hour cutting the nylon ropes with a special curved knife, a risky undertaking since a single flip of the gargantuan mammal’s tail could easily have killed any of them. Eventually they freed her, a true feat that had never been seen before. They told the newspaper reporter that the whale seemingly thanked them for its deliverance once the rescue operation was complete. When the whale realized it was free, it began swimming around in joyous circles, according to the rescuers. It swam to each diver, nuzzled him and then swam to the next one.

“It felt to me like she was thanking us, knowing that she was free and that we had helped her. She stopped about a foot away from me, pushed me around a little bit and had some fun. She seemed kind of affectionate, like a dog that’s happy to see you,” James Moskito said. “I never felt threatened. It was an amazing, unbelievable experience.”

“The whale was doing little dives and the guys were rubbing shoulders with it,” said Mick Menigoz. “I don’t know for sure what it was thinking, but it’s something that I will always remember. They all agreed that it was one of the most incredibly beautiful experiences of their lives. The diver who cut the rope out of her mouth said her eyes were following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.”

This article made me think about what a magnificent creature the whale is. A close friend of mine introduced me to Trish Reagan who lives in Hawaii and knows about whales. She has contributed her photos and writes: My husband and I have been taking groups of people to swim with the humpback whales in the Kingdom of Tonga since 2004. We are always inspired by their graceful beauty and most of all by their deep wisdom and energy that, we believe, supports all life on earth. They migrate up from Antarctica to this beautiful paradise to mate and give birth and they greet us with open fins. We can legally swim with the whales and have encounters close as a breath as they gaze deeply into our eyes.  The whales carry a profound energy that engulfs our senses and brings us into the very core of being, giving us the gift of feeling in complete inner peace in their presence.  We are so grateful to the whales that help us to connect with the deepest part of our hearts. It is like being in the heart of God.

Whether we have been rescued form a near-death experience like the whale, or are simply going about our daily routines, the message is clear: Gratitude is a powerful emotion that can completely change our perspective. Dr. Robert Emmons’ research findings on the emotion of gratitude are relevant for all of us who are struggling with financial issues, parenting challenges, and everyday trials and tribulations. Gratitude is not a simplistic emotion, but in fact it is a very complex phenomenon that can measurably change people’s lives. His research showed that people who practice gratitude are more successful and cope more effectively with everyday stress, show more resilience in the face of trauma-induced stress, and recover more quickly from illness.

The practice helps people to become more prosocial because it binds them together in relationships of reciprocity. People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have less envy, have more empathy and compassion, place less importance on material goods, don’t compare themselves to others, and don’t need the approval of others to make them feel happy; they are less likely to judge their own and the success of others in terms of possessions accumulated, and they are more likely to share what they have.

The French philosopher, Gabriel Massieu, once said that “gratitude is the memory of the heart”. As parents we need to share our heart’s memory with our children and show them that we do not forget the every day events that excite an admiring awe (the definition of miracle). Children are miracles.

Gratitude is the antidote to anything negative that is getting you down. When you really experience thankfulness, you are in a place of receivership, and you will be more likely see others as giving, friendly, and compassionate, even when there is misfortune and crisis. Stop waiting for good things to happen in order to lift yourself up. A heart filled with gratitude creates a life filled with joy.

Acknowledge yourself in all the ways that you contribute to the world as a parent, a spouse, a friend, and as a totally unique human being!. What would it be like if you banished self-pity and lived your life as though your prayers were already answered? Be sure to watch this beautiful dreamy underwater footage of humpbacks filmed up close in Bermuda. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOS20plm7UM. You can hear their songs, see their eyes, feel their gracefulness, and watch the loving synchronisation of mother and baby swimming together. May you always be inspired by the joy in giving and receiving gratitude.

Thanks for reading the Monday Motivational Newsletter.

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