The Power of Appreciation

After Dr. Katia Sol's beautiful retreat in West Marin with Danielle Devaki Gustafson, I sat down once more to write about gratitude. But seeing as how we just passed Thanksgiving (a SF one at that) and I literally pass my gratitude jar every time I reach for my computer to type out a post, the word itself was beginning to get lost on me. I thought back to the high-vibe weekend we had up at Spirit House, with its gorgeous grounds and great balance of yoga, hiking, eating, hanging, talking, not talking, performing rituals and resting, as I stared at my desk. And after a few blank minutes I realized my eyes were fixed on 5 colorful heart-shaped slips of paper bearing little notes of appreciation written for me. Yes, these were from that weekend too, and I'd brought them home as a little souvenir to display right next to my work space. "Thank you for your words" was scrawled across one, while "your focus is inspiring" was part of another. I'd arranged them neatly next to my writing space for those times when I needed a little reminder that what I do - be it even the small things - counts.

Because gratitude is more than just thanking the universe for our warmth and safety, a flower or a friend, it's an acknowledgement that those comforts exist, that the little intricacies of someone's being, the effort they've put forth, have gone noticed. And when Katia, having studied various cultures over the years, shared about the Indigenous origins of gratitude, and a fellow retreatant told a story of one indigenous community in Africa that holds a gratitude circle in place of a prison sentence when one of their members strays, I wondered why we don't do more of this. Then again, we can. Because gratitude is all about acknowledgement, about looking at those lessons we perceive as difficult, in hopes to transform them into something pleasant for ourselves or others. It's an appreciation that we're even here, that someone took the time to prepare us a meal, and that Katia had the brilliant forethought to bring freeze-dried raspberries to drizzle on top of the chocolate (definitely recommended) and suggest that we take a second to write little notes of appreciation to each other in the first place. I assumed this would be just another retreat, just another bunch of awesome people, and some more yoga tailored perfectly to our needs, and it was, but I walked away with something better. That is, the only thing, really, that we all want at the end of the day - the knowledge that my existence, in all its joy and struggles, counts. So I'll end this post with a little, uh, let's call it acknowledgement: Thank you, Katia, for bringing your years of focused research and soft, feminine, leadership style to the Bay. What you do makes a difference.

To find out more about Dr. Katia Sol's ongoing coaching, group programs and retreats, please visit

Photo: Margot Duane
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