Weaving A Gratitude Circle

Gratitude is a well researched mental wellness strategy. Several studies done on individuals who practise gratitude consistently have reported the following benefits: An improved sense of physical health. People who practice gratitude report a reduction in pain symptoms. A boost of psychological and emotional wellbeing. An increased sense of belonging and connectedness and enhanced understanding of fulfilment and happiness (Brown & Wong, 2017).

Making art as a community brings multiple benefits too. Making art as a community fosters collaboration, helps forge inclusiveness and mutual respect, improves emotional wellbeing and expands social circles (Vichealth, 2014). It is leaning on these tenets, I conceived the idea of weaving a gratitude circle when Eshwin approached me to support Cancer Council’s biggest morning tea fundraiser she was organising with her husband, Niles.

Eshwin had visited Mindkshetra studio’s earlier in the month through a networking event. While our face to face chat was brief, she related immediately to Mindkshetra’s mission statement to proactively nurture the mental wellness of life stories using creativity.

Her intentions and instructions were clear to me when she approached me to become part of the event. She said, “I want a fun, engaging, inspiring activity to help bring the community together while spreading the awareness on the importance of nurturing one’s inner wellness. And if they can get to create collaborative art while doing that even better ”.

The minute I proposed gratitude circle, she exclaimed, “This is it! Let’s make this happen”. She warned me, saying, “Come armed with your brightest smile and the loudest voice you can muster – the one that could cater to hundreds”.

As I walked in, I quickly said a mental thanks to her for prepping me to greet the small army of community members gathered. I arrived at a room filled with smiling faces, loud chatter, people from varying ages and background, primarily dressed in yellows, their collective energy enough to fuel an entire village for a year. This was no ordinary fundraiser. This was a celebration, similar to a wedding, the kind I’m used to back home.

As I addressed the crowd, I didn’t feel like I was addressing a group of strangers; for the minute I started talking, the people gathered offered support, reflecting in smiles, nods and agreement. When I extended an invitation to the community members present there to experience the weaving of a gratitude circle, around twenty-five members joined, with some additional members choosing to stand witness to it.

Addressing the community Members, 12th June 2021 PC: Kennyg_Photography

The aim of conducting the weaving of gratitude circle in addition to facilitating a discussion on practising gratitude was also to create live fibre art, symbolising the interconnectedness, community spirit, and communal wellbeing which we experience during collaborative art-making.

After a small discussion on the benefits of practising gratitude, I invited each member of the circle to share what they were grateful for and become a co-creator of weaving a live pattern by holding on to their end of the thread and passing the string of thread to another member, asking them to do the same. As the yarn started unravelling to float in the air, so did the rise in excitement and the collective energy. Whenever there was a threat to the string getting tangled, a member from a different corner would readily step in as if on cue to save it from untangling and set it back on its path. For me, this symbolised the support and empathy one can experience when you let someone else bear witness to your life story.

As the design came alive, so did the sense of gratefulness, belonging and the palpable camaraderie of being part of the wider community. As each of us held on to our end of the yarn, collectively acknowledging gratitude, we became privy to this sense of togetherness and interconnectedness. Our weaved pattern: a live art, unique, transient, yet very real. A clear visual reminder of the sense of being active members of this circle called society, which we have the power to change.