By Polly Green
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~Melody Beattie
Yesterday, while praying in the Ganges River, my purse got stolen.
Standing in The Holy River Ganges, praying up to my neck in her healing waters, the outside world felt as if it had stopped.
The feeling of happiness to be back in Rishikesh was so strong it bordered on invincible. Instant immersion into the healing waters of Maa Ganga was the only thing on my mind.
I had casually left my bag on the beach before going in the river. Since I had never had any problems here in previous trips, my guard was down.
India, a magnified mind mirror, reflects back exactly what I think about at lightening speed. It also has a knack of teaching me exactly what I need to learn.
Upon getting out of the river, I didn’t notice my purse was missing, because it had been piled under clothes and nothing seemed amiss.
Sitting on the beach, absorbing the feelings of my post prayer bliss, a dodgy Indian man approached, asking me if the beach was safe.
“That’s weird,” I thought. “Why is he asking me if the beach is safe?”
My internal alarm bell started ringing and I took it as a sign to check my belongings. Sure enough, my purse was gone.
Now what? Here is the real test. How do I respond?
Well, first, I went after the dodgy guy, assuming he was the thief, and told him to give me back my purse. He denied up and down that he knew anything about it.
After badgering him for a while to return the purse, I realized it was a lost cause.
Searching the rocky beach, hoping maybe he had stashed it, seemed like a good idea, but there was no luck on that front either.
Two other western girls, who were sitting farther down the beach, kindly helped me to look for it after hearing my story.
Feeling as though I had exhausted all possible options at the scene of the crime, the next logical step was to return to my room, call the bank, and cancel my ATM card.
In the purse was $100 worth of Indian Rupees, my ATM card, and both room keys. Amazingly, the rest of my cash and passport were still safe in my room.
Listening to the little inner voice that told me to leave them there, just prior to the beach excursion, was proving to be a massive blessing.
I had switched out the padlock on my room door with a lock I had brought, thinking it would be more secure, and both sets of keys were in my stolen purse.
Upon hearing the lost key predicament, the Ashram manager, without blinking an eye, set out to help break into my room.
It wasn’t an easy mission.
It took him about an hour of trying to saw through the un-sawable lock, until finally he decided to saw through the hardware on the door, which worked. I was able to enter my room, while the manager quickly ran to the market to buy new hardware for the door.
Meanwhile, I called my bank and cancelled my ATM card. The bank people were absolutely lovely, empathetic, and helpful.
My neighbor in the Ashram offered to make me a cup of tea, and the neighbors on the other side offered us some of their beautiful meal they had just cooked.
In the midst of my vulnerability, I felt supported on all sides!
Immediately, I began searching for the lesson in my purse getting stolen.
Instead of focusing on what I had done wrong and beating myself up about it, I chose to focus on what was actually good:
- I still had my phone and money I had left in my room.
- I had a spare ATM card and credit card in the room.
- I still had my passport.
- Coincidentally, I had run into a friend the day before who remembered he owed me money, and it was the exact amount I just lost.
- My neighbors were generous and kind.
- The Ashram manager was lovely and helpful and didn’t bat an eye at destroying the door hardware.
- The bank people were helpful.
- The kind girls at the beach helped me search for my purse.
- I had everything I needed!
After making this gratitude list, I realized how much I truly have, how blessed my life is, how many kind and generous people are in the world, and how I am always provided for.
Sometimes the lowest times are what make us stronger.
Coming to India always shakes me out of my comfort zone, and this was no exception. I am still absorbing the lessons, and they are powerful ones:
- This experience has made me want to give more.
- It has made me realize I only need to take with me what I need.
- I felt the vulnerability of having nothing for a short period of time, and that made me want to help others.
- It showed me my inner progress: I didn’t panic. I didn’t beat myself up. I don’t feel like a victim and am not blaming the person who stole my purse.
- It snapped me back into respect—respect for all that I have and respect that there are people that have a lot less. It reminded me to treat all people as equal regardless of their financial status.
- It reminded me to give others not only what I can monetarily, but also acknowledge the presence in others, by giving them my full attention.
- It also reminded me that have a choice where I focus my thinking and attention; I can choose to accept the things I can’t change, and have the courage to change the things I can.
What happened, happened. Now I have a choice to learn the lessons and receive the gold out of the situation.
Today I went back to the same beach to do my prayers in the river. This time I didn’t take anything with me except my change of clothes, bringing only bare essentials. Keeping a close watch on my bag, I didn’t let yesterday’s event tarnish my heartfelt love for this place.
Feeling blessed, grateful, and humbled to be in Mother India again, I feel love for the people here, and especially the ones who have nothing.
The Power of Gratitude is Astonishing
It’s amazing how gratitude can shift your perspective when things go wrong. The next time you face a challenging situation, hit your internal pause button, breathe, and survey the situation. Don’t panic.
Ask yourself, what can I do right now? What is the number one priority?
Accept that what has happened, happened. Don’t beat yourself up for what you didn’t do. Drop resistance and fighting what is and instead focus on what you can do now.
Focus on what’s good in the situation. Ask yourself, what are the lessons to be learned from this? And make a gratitude list as fast as possible.
Talk about the good that came from the event rather than constantly repeating a negative story to others. Integrate the lessons, let it go, and move on.