Reflections on Gratitude...

Who knew a blast of air on a fractured tooth could render a badass ninja into a trembling kitten? Okay… I suppose I would have expected it if I had given it prior thought. But here’s the thing: I don’t have problems with dental work. I don’t leap from the chair like a Halloween cat and claw the ceiling every time the dentist pokes at a tooth. In fact, my biggest concern is staying awake in those comfy reclining chairs. But when that air blasted my nerve, I embedded all twenty of my claws so deeply into ceiling panel I didn’t think I’d ever come down.

Fortunately, my dentist and his dental assistant daughter have calming and compassionate natures and were able to pry my claws out of whatever those panels are made of and settle me back in the chair. As I trembled in the no-longer-comforting chair, I recognized my terror as potential for personal discovery. In other words, I had no other choice but to sit there and take it, so why not make the best of it?

As you may have noticed, physical pain unlocks emotion. It happens frequently with pressure points and meridians, which is why a trip to a masseuse can be emotionally exhausting. Well, that blast of air on a fractured tooth unlocked a year’s worth of fear and doubt. Oh goodie!

I began the year feeling hopeful, energized, and ready for some major shifts in my budding writing career. So, when I read the challenging predictions for a Metal Ox in the Year of the Sheep (The Chinese in me pays a lot of attention to the Shēngxiào, Chinese Zodiac), I swore to meet those challenges with diligent effort and unswerving determination. Go ninja go!

Well, true to prediction, the sheep kept throwing up obstacles for my ox to trample back in the earth. The turbulent action tilled the soil for what I hope will be future success. Yay!  It also dug up some unpleasant emotions. Yay?

Many were the times I returned to past Mindful Musings to remind myself of strategies for coping with doubt, disappointment, and the other unsettling emotions. My struggles also inspired new musings for maintaining health and building empowering habits. Both reviewing and writing felt powerful and kept me mindful, which in turn allowed me to catch potentially debilitating emotions as they arose and redirect them in more beneficial directions.

So, what does this have to do with my poor fractured tooth?

Just because I found ways to stay calm, creative, and productive did not mean that I didn’t experience fear or self-doubt. On the contrary. I tussled with more doubt and fear in 2015 than I remember feeling in years. Sitting in that chair, bracing myself for another cat leap to the ceiling, brought up all of that vulnerability, which in turn, heightened my terror of the moment.

To calm myself down, I reverted to my mediation practice. I closed my eyes, unclenched my fists, gently touched my thumb and middle-fingers together, and repeated this mantra:

Trust in his skill.  Trust in his skill.

As the hour progressed, I realized that the mantra also applied to me. I needed to Trust in my skills.

Everyone has myriad skills. Some are tangible—like the skills required for functioning in modern society, executing a task, or succeeding in a profession. Others are less tangible, like the skills that improved communication, focus, or patience. I doubt anyone could count all the skills they have accumulated in life.

But I didn’t need to list them all, I just needed to trust they were there to help me survive hardships, achieve goals, build significant relationships, and adapt to new conditions, and basically learn whatever needed to be learned so I could take care of myself physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.


I didn’t need to trust in anyone in particular, I just needed to trust.

While I contemplated this new mantra (and my dentist constructed and installed my crown), I found myself feeling calm and optimistic and confident. Sure, I still felt shaky and drained by my emotional roller-coaster, but it was a good kind of drained. The kind that felt like growth. I had triggered issues that might take a while to work through and would likely cross over into other situations and relationships, but that was okay. I had enough skills (tangible and intangible) to positively experience the journey.

So as the Year of the Sheep comes to an end, I feel thankful for the trials and the diligent effort that kept me growing and moving in positive directions. I feel grateful for the mindfulness that allowed me to feel the love, see the beauty, and honor the poignancy. I feel deep compassion for those who suffered (and are continuing to suffer) tragedy, loss, and hardship. I feel blessed for the incredibly fortunate conditions of my life.

Farewell 2015. May the new year bring laughter and joy, health and prosperity, passion and contentment. But mostly, may it bring the peace of mindful gratitude so I can appreciate another year of the journey.

Tori Eldridge
Tori Eldridge is a Honolulu-born writer, a 5th degree black belt ninja, and a former actress, dancer, singer on Broadway, television, and film. She writes action-packed, culturally-rich thrillers and mystically intriguing suspense, empowering non-fiction, and has taught ninjutsu and empowerment across the country.
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