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Gratitude as a Spiritual Practice

As I lay on the massage table under the palm leaf ceiling, the curandero walked around me saying “Thank you, thank you, thank you” in between phrases spoken in Spanish and other languages I didn’t recognize. He sometimes moved part of my body in what felt like a mix between a chiropractic adjustment and an assisted stretch, sometimes sang what sounded like a child’s lullaby. Mostly he said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you” throughout my healing session.

Miraculously, the next morning I woke up pain-free for the first time in five years. I was deeply relieved and grateful to be free of the chronic low back pain that had affected my daily life for so long. I hoped the healing would last.

Later that day, after teaching a yoga session on the retreat I was leading, I slipped and fell flat on my back on hard concrete in the pouring rain. My first thought was, “Oh, great, just when I finally felt better.” I wanted to cry.

The curandero’s words came to mind and immediately countered my fear of back pain returning. I repeated “Thank you, thank you, thank you” in my mind. I stood up and slowly walked upstairs to my hotel room to rest, and simply reflected on giving thanks. I felt sincerely grateful for all of the beautiful moments I was experiencing that week, including the moment when I woke up pain free. My logic: if the curandero’s main prayer was “thank you,” and it seemed to work a miracle, I could continue to pray in this way and hope to stay pain-free.