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The Transformative Power of Gratitude: Katia Sol (Transcript)

Katia Sol at TEDxMission

Full text of transformative education expert Katia Sol’s talk: The Transformative Power of Gratitude at TEDxMission The City2.0 conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


Katia Sol – Award-Winning Scholar & Writer

I’m feeling really grateful.

  • Grateful to be here sharing this conference with you today,
  • Grateful to have the opportunity to present,
  • Grateful to have some friends in the audience – friendly faces,
  • Grateful for Madrone Studios – amazing creative space,
  • And the City – all the innovative things that are happening here – the fantastic production team.
  • Just feel really grateful to be alive!

As Adele really beautifully introduced, I work with the Ecology Leadership Program at the Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas. This program was founded by James Stark and Christopher Kuntzsch. And I’d like to give a little shout out to them.

James is in India right now giving a TEDx talk. Flew all the way around the world. It’s pretty cool that I’m doing this here. And Christopher’s at the Northern California Permaculture Convergence. This is just amazing how these seeds are going out all over the world.

And what we specialize in is ‘Inner permaculture’. So RDI has a bunch of programs that are doing the kinds of things you’ve heard about today: learning about great water systems, and permaculture design, and rescaling, and you know all the different practices that we’re hearing on the outer level.

But what we like to look at is what happens if we take a look at our inner garden?

So what are the shifts that need to happen on an inner level that then will create the possibility for transformation on an outer level that we really want to see in our own lives, in our communities, and in the world?

So in my presentation today I’m going to focus on what we call a deceptively simple but profoundly transformative practice which is ‘Gratitude’.

Now I’d like you to just imagine for a moment…

What it would be like to live in a city founded upon the principle of ‘Gratitude’?

What would it be like if you woke up in the morning, and the first thought that came to your mind was, ‘Wow, I’m just so grateful to have another day to be alive!’?

What would be like if as you left the house in the morning, first person that you ran into, maybe it’s your bus driver, maybe it’s the buddies at the local coffee shop like, ‘Wow, I’m so grateful for you!’ ‘I just love the way that you make those little designs on my coffee, makes me really happy every morning!’?

Imagine as if we went to the workplace and you talk to your colleagues and you express your gratitude. You know just took that extra moment to be like, you know, ‘I really really am grateful for the work that you’re doing’; really grateful to work at this company; you’re really grateful to your employees, your employer.

Get home from a bit work at the end of a long day and express your gratitude to your spouse, your partner, your housemate.

Go to bed at night with this feeling of gratitude.

What would it be like if we lived in the city founded upon gratitude?

Now some might say that we actually do live in a culture that is based on gratitude. So the first nations are indigenous peoples of this land which I’ve had fortune of working with around the world, practice ‘Thanksgiving’ on a regular basis. And there is something called a ‘Thanksgiving address’ and this is a poster of it that I have in my home.

And it talks about all the different aspects of creation that we’re grateful for, you know, ranging from the earth, to the waters, to the fish, trees, the plants, the Sun, the moon.

And so as we ponder this, you know, idea of dwelling in gratitude, I’d like you to just close your eyes for a moment and connect to something you’re feeling grateful for. I’m going to share a little song, it’s a Gratitude song.

‘Oh! Why say thank you… Oh! Why saying thank you!

Oh great spirit! In this way, I long to give my life to you!

In love and devotion, in love and devotion!

we a hey, ah we a hey, oh hey oh hey oh!’

So just let that little bit of gratitude sink in, hold on to it. Maybe when we’re done you can share it with your neighbour, person sitting next to you.

I am going to take you on a little journey into how gratitude became a really central part of my life.

I was living in Canada in the midst of a very snowy winter 2007. There was a feet and feet of snow and I was going through a really really hard time in my life.

So I was somebody who actually had had a pretty easeful life up until that point in time, you know, things seemed to come easily to me. It wasn’t really… I hadn’t found myself in a moment of deep challenge.

But there was, you know, I had a relationship that was falling apart and I had a young baby year-old. I was starting a PhD program. I was in a new city where I didn’t know anybody. And suddenly I found myself having trouble just even getting out of bedroom in the morning.

So every day I would wake up and I would have to struggle to find you know like, ‘What is the reason to get out of bed? What is it that can really help me get through the day?’

And as I would get out of bed, I would get dressed, to get my laptop, get ready to go to school, get my snow gear on and jacket and my toque, and get ready my snow boots, get ready to charge out into the winter cold, I would root in the practice of gratitude.

So I found that if I just dug deep and found the one thing that I was grateful for, I could make it. I could make it to the subway, if I just focused on.

  • I’m really grateful for my legs that can walk. There’s lots of people around the world who actually don’t have that privilege…
  • I’m really grateful for my breath. Just the ability to breathe in and out.
  • I’m grateful for my eyes that can see
  • Grateful to have arms that can hold my baby.

Now I’m just grateful!

And it was that practice that really got me through those really dark and deep days. Even though I’d worked with indigenous cultures around the world and even though I’d been exposed to this on some level, I’d like to think that I just kind of came to it as it’s almost like it saved my life. It was just rooting in that gratitude that got me through that time.

Fast forward a couple of years, I came out to California and encountered the Ecology of Leadership program. And I was really stunned to find the gratitude was a regular part of what they were practicing in the program.

So as I began my meetings with my co-workers, we would start every single meeting with gratitude. Imagine that. You know you’ve got an hour-long meeting to take the first ten minutes and just talk about what you’re grateful for. I was kind of like, ‘Whoa, this is revolutionary!’

But we would just go around and around. It wasn’t just one thing, you know. It was like hearing like 10, 20, 30 things each person was feeling grateful for. And it really changed my mind what was possible in an organizational culture.

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