1. What Makes Us Human: Gratitude

    dreamstime_xxl_51272847During this blog series on our spirituality conference website, we have been exploring what it means to be human. In this blog, we will dive into what community is, and why it is an important value for all of humanity to share.

    Gratitude is an integral part of human nature. If it wasn’t, would every language have a word to express “thank you”? Would millions of people across the world say grace before each meal? Would we give people gifts on their birthdays? Across countries, religions, generations, and languages, we as humans all participate in the important practice of gratitude because it is our natural disposition to be grateful. Gratitude is seen in every corner of the earth, yet we do not always prioritize it as a species. So what is gratitude, and how does it make us human, why should we bother, and how might we incorporate it into our lives? In this blog, we will explore these questions.

    What is gratitude?

    Gratitude is the recognition and appreciation of things we are thankful for. Gratitude is a universal human experience that can be recognized among humans everywhere. It is easy to connect gratitude to gifts, especially when you look at the latin root, of the word, “gratia,” which means gift. Just as you thank someone when they give you a gift, you must express gratitude for the blessings upon your life. Gratitude comes naturally to us, but in our busy, modern world, people get distracted and forget to regularly be thankful for what they have. Yet research has shown that gratitude can be incredibly beneficial to many elements of our lives, including emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, and physically.

    How does gratitude makes us human?

    Gratitude is about connecting with the world around us. It is about keeping perspective. Gratitude acts as a uniting force among humankind. Expressing gratitude is a crucial part of our survival. It strengthens our relationships to each other, and creates a powerful ripple effect to the rest of the earth. The strength of the relationships in our personal lives creates more gratitude. As you express gratitude to and for your friend, it opens up them to be more grateful as well. In turn, they express gratitude to other people in their lives, and the gratitude spreads far and wide.

    Benefits of gratitude

    Gratitude can have a powerful impact on our lives in a positive way. Most simply, gratitude makes us happy. When we feel the happiness and satisfaction that comes with gratitude, we also feel more optimism, pleasure, and joy. Additionally, gratitude has proven to have a powerful impact on our physical and mental health. It helps us sleep better, it lowers blood pressure, it improves immunity, and it makes us less affected by the aches and pains of disease. Gratitude also makes us resilient in the face of trauma, and makes us more compassionate.

    How to be grateful

    Clearly, when we incorporate gratitude into our daily lives, we see improvements both personally and in the world around us. Therefore, we must all prioritize feeling and expressing gratitude. Here are some ways we can all emphasize gratitude in our lives:

    • Write down three things you are thankful for each day. You can do this in a journal, or you can great creative and write each on a piece of paper you put in a jar. At the end of the year, you can empty the jar and read through everything that made you grateful to reflect on the good things in your life.
    • Share appreciation daily. Whether it is a quick compliment to your spouse or a moment of reflection the beauty of the sunrise, take a moment out of each day to appreciate something and express it.
    • Abstain from complaining. You may not be able to do this forever, but take a week where you swear you will not complain at all. You may be surprised to realize the way your thoughts improve and you spend less time reflecting on the negative.
    • Reflect with gratitude on negative situations. When you face challenges, it can be difficult to see what you should appreciate, but practice reflecting back for a reason to be grateful while being as neutral as possible. This will make it even easier to identify places for gratitude in your daily life.
      Donate your time or money to a cause. Contributing directly to something you care about will make you grateful for your life as a whole.

    Once you incorporate more gratitude into your life, the positive effects extend to those around you as well. At our spirituality conference in Finland, we aim to explore humanity and what it means to be human, as well as what we as humans can do to improve the world as a whole. Stay tuned for more information on our future spirituality conferences.

  2. What Makes Us Human: Community

    During this blog series on our spirituality conference website, we have been exploring what it means to be human. In this blog, we will dive into what community is, and why it is an important value for all of humanity to share.

    Have you ever felt lonely, even when you were not alone? Have you ever felt like no one else in the world could possibly understand you? In these times, did you turn towards your friends and family, or did you turn away, hiding yourself from the world? We have all felt isolated before. We walk our own paths in life, and at times, we walk alone. How do we respond to this in a way that brings more positive, glowing energy into the world? How do we take the darkness we feel in our hearts and create connection when all we want to do is get away from the world? This is when we lean on our communities to keep yourself connected.

    What is community?

    Some people are a part of many different communities. You may belong to a church or other spiritual community, or a sports team, or a school. Your work is a community. Your family is a community, as well as your neighborhood, town, and country. A community is essentially a group of people brought together by a commonality, and they are integral to the human experience. This commonality is often a shared goal or value. Good communities help us become the best version of ourselves. They enrich the good qualities we have, and help us work to improve ourselves. They provide the right environment for connection and growth.

    At our spirituality conference, there was a sense of community because we all came together as one to discuss the state of the earth and the possibilities of the unknown. We were united as we shared our thoughts and ideas without judgment. This type of environment aids our humanity because it connects us together.

    What is it about community that makes us human?

    Alone, we are human. Together, we are humanity. The collective nature of communities allows us to bring together the positive energy we all have to create something larger than ourselves. Depending on the goal and values of your community, you can have a huge impact on the state of the earth with your community. With others, you can channel everything good inside of yourself and magnify it with the goodness of the people with whom you surround yourself. Together, we become a force behind our values. Not only can you discuss and share your values with the members of your community, you can take meaningful action.

    How to Create Community

    Oftentimes, we are not integrated into a community that naturally aligns with our values and goals, and therefore, you must find one or create one. When you seek out a community, you want one that will encompass everything you’re looking for from a community. Whether you are looking for an already existing community, ask yourself these questions:

    • What values must align in your community?
    • What is the purpose of your community?
    • How often will your community come together?
    • What goals do you share with your community?

    Once you have these questions answered, you will have a better idea of what and who you need to find. When you find your community, you can come together and carry each other’s burdens. You can bring love and light into your life. You can trust others with your truest self. You can unite behind a common cause. Within our communities, we foster a sense of belonging, and this belonging is what makes us human.

  3. What Makes Us Human: Compassion

    Over the next few blogs on our spirituality conference website, we will be exploring what it means to be human. In this blog, we will dive into what compassion is, and why it is an important value for all of humanity to share.

    It is undeniable that there is suffering on this earth. We don’t have to look very far to see it. It’s in the heart of your neighbor next door who lost his wife, the child who has nothing to eat because of poverty, the co-worker who suffers from chronic illness. To be human is to suffer. So how do we live with our suffering and the suffering of others in a world that can seem cruel? Compassion.

    What is compassion?

    The etymology of the word “compassion” is Latin, and it literally means to suffer together. Compassion goes beyond empathy, which is our ability to feel the emotions of others. When you feel compassion, not only do you feel for other people’s suffering, you are motivated to do something about it.

    Why be compassionate?

    When we feel compassion, we have a biological response. It slows our heart rate, we release oxytocin (the “love chemical”), and our brain’s pleasure center lights up. Because of this biological basis, scientists look to an evolutionary purpose for compassion. We are wired for compassion, so there must be a reason that we experience it. Compassion helps us form long-term relationships with friends, family, and lovers and guides us as we care for our young. We use it to form the bonds we need to survive.

    Not only do we feel compassion as a result of our evolution, when we actively seek compassion, we can see benefits to ourselves and others. In the emotional realm, people who are more compassionate are happier in a lasting way. The more we practice compassion, the more we are rewarded in our brains. Not only does compassion reward us mentally, it rewards us physically as well. Because compassion slows the heart rate, it boosts the Vagus Nerve, which in term reduces our risk of heart disease. Compassion makes us more resilient in the face of stress, and improves our immunity from disease. Compassion improves our relationships as well. It lets us parent better, be better friends and spouses, and allows us to let go of vindictiveness and judgment.

    When we are compassionate towards others, we are doing more than benefiting ourselves and those with whom we are intimate. We are making for a better world entirely. Each act of compassion ripples out into the universe, creating balanced and loving vibrations throughout society as a whole. Compassion is integral to our humanity, and so it makes us human.

    How to cultivate compassion for others

    There is the impression that humans are naturally selfish, and it’s true that it is easy to focus on your own self-interest rather than be generous with yourself. Compassion may be hardwired, but it doesn’t always feel natural in modern society. The media encourages vanity, self-absorption, and pettiness. Yet now we know that compassion reaps far more benefits for us and all of humankind. So how can you create compassion within yourself?

    Remember the comfort of others when you suffered and how it lifted your burdens off of you in a way that felt like a physical weight was lifting off of you. Not only will you feel kindness towards those individuals, this feeling can help you feel the need to help others in the same way. Try meditating on the idea of compassion; take a few minutes from each day to sit in silence and fill yourself with feelings of compassion, even for people for whom it may be difficult to feel compassion. When you read the news, pay attention to the names, and find out what you can about the individuals involved. This will put a face to the suffering you see on a daily basis, stirring compassion in your heart. By actively pursuing compassion, you can create a compassionate heart, which will serve you and others and make the world a better place.

    Thank you for taking the time to read our spirituality conference blog on cultivating compassion. Please follow along with us as we continue our blog series, What Makes Us Human.

  4. What Makes Us Human: Forgiveness

    Over the next few blogs on our spiritual conference website, we will be exploring what it means to be human. In this blog, we will dive into what honesty is, and why it is an important value for all of humanity to share.

    As humans, we often hold onto resentment because it’s easier than letting go. When someone wrongs us, we respond in self-righteous anger. How could this person do that to us? We respond to betrayal by shutting ourselves inward like a clam, hiding our true selves from those who we believe aren’t worthy. We cling to these resentments and grudges as though they are giving us life. Yet when you turn to our spiritual leaders and inspirational heroes, they tell us to forgive. Maya Angelou said, “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.” Ms. Angelou was a wise woman, but this quote may confuse you. When someone wrongs you, how can forgiving them help you in any way?

    Why should we forgive others?

    You may not believe it, but Ms. Angelou is right. When we forgive others, we are doing ourselves a favor. You may think, “why should I let this person who has wronged me off the hook? They don’t deserve my forgiveness.” While they may not deserve it, you deserve to be free of resentment. Anger grows inside of us and steals our energy, taking far more from us than we gain from it. When we forgive someone, this anger dissipates, and we can be at peace. Show yourself the love they didn’t show you by letting it go. Give yourself rest from the storm of anger brewing inside of you, keeping you awake at night. Forgiving those who wrong us is a gift to ourselves.

    Additionally, when you forgive another person, you acknowledge that no one is perfect. Regardless of what this person did, whether it was intentionally malicious or not, it was human. As humans, we make mistakes. We wrong others without consideration of their feelings and desires. We can be selfish and stubborn. You consider the person who betrayed you to be a bad person, but in reality, though their actions may be bad, we are all the same. You do bad things too. When you embrace this reality, you realize that you too are a flawed human being, and that is beautiful. When you forgive another person, you set yourself up to be forgiven in the future. Just because you are the victim right now, doesn’t mean you won’t someday be the perpetrator. When that occurs, what would you like from the person you wronged? Forgiveness. Because just as when we forgive others, it frees us, it also gives them a beautiful gift by allowing them to forgive themselves. Forgiveness begets more forgiveness, and the cycle allows us to be connected.

    How does forgiveness make us human?

    Being betrayed is one of the most painful experiences of being human. It separates us from our fellow man and makes us feel alone. This isolation hurts us all as a whole. Each time one person experiences the pain of emotional solitude, it radiates throughout the universe and affects the interconnectedness of the human race. Ironically, there is only so much that we can do for those we betray. We can apologize, make restitution, and beg for forgiveness, but until that person actually lets go of the anger and negative feelings they have towards us, that fracture in humanity remains. Forgiveness is a powerful and transformative thing in our world, and forgiving another person makes us all closer to whole.

    At The Dreamers Conference, a spirituality conference in Finland, we explored the meaning of humanity, and how we can achieve a more peaceful world. Watch the videos on our website to learn more about our spirituality conference.