Skip to content

In a sector that often operates project to project, grant to grant, one of the things that helps us stay grounded in who we are and why we do what we do is taking stock of our process and sharing best practices (or at least what we’ve experienced as such) with you.

Today we’re sharing with you the Gratitude Balm – a practice that draws on the age-old wisdom of expressing gratitude. This specific practice came to us by way of Mathura, our Program Manager of The Stories of Us program, and is now one that we’ve shared with some of our project partners and our Board. In this meditation, Mathura guides you on an immersive journey where you explore who you might want to balm and how you can share that with them in a way that feels careful, honest, consensual, and loving.

This can be an exercise you do on your own, with your team, family, or group of friends. It’s a practice that deserves your full attention, rather than one that is played in the background, so we encourage you to listen to it when you can be present. Feel free to share this practice with anyone you think might find it useful, and share your experiences with us by tagging @dia_space or using the hashtag #DIAGratitudeBalm


For those who prefer to read rather than listen, you can find a transcript of the meditation below.

Hello and thank you for being here. My name is Mathura Mahendren and in this meditation I will be guiding you through a practice that we at the Department of Imaginary Affairs call the Gratitude Balm, where Balm is spelled B-A-L-M. For me, the gratitude balm is practice that emerged over the years. I was finding myself noticing these incredible things about the people in my life and was just craving a way to reflect that back to them. A way that felt careful, consensual, honest, and loving. 

And this year, I had a chance to bring this practice into our work with the The Stories of Us project. And through this meditation, a chance to share it with all of you. 

For me, the making of a gratitude balm is guided by a set of feelings, instincts, and intuition more than anything else. For me, these are all credible knowledge keepers. So, as I guide you through this immersive journey where you can explore who you would like to balm and what you want to share with them, I invite you to trust your own set of knowledge keepers if/when you encounter resistance. 

  • This is a practice for you if it’s starting to feel like thank you just doesn’t cover everything you want to share. 
  • This is a practice if you want to share gratitude not just as a courtesy, but as a gift in and of itself. The bonus is that the gratitude balm has the potential to be a gift to the balmer, as well as the balmee. 
  • This is a practice for you if you’re yearning for the depth of connection that can emerge from teasing apart, acknowledging and appreciating the unique ingredients that someone adds to your life, team, or family. 
  • This is a practice for you you’re looking to tap into an internal reservoir of abundance at a time when external cues suggest scarcity.

And if you’re still here, I’d wager that this is a practice for you. Period.

I invite you to take 5 deep breaths with me, and if you’re still here on that fifth exhale, I’ll take that as your enthusiastic consent to join me on this journey. 

Inhale, exhale

Inhale, exhale

Inhale, exhale

Inhale, exhale

Inhale, exhale

As you think about who you feel drawn to balm, allow their names, faces, memories, and sensations to emerge and come before your mind’s eye. Notice the feelings that accompany each name, face, memory, or sensations. Notice the ‘shoulds’ – there may be people that you feel like you should or need to balm given your relationship to them or their life circumstance. Notice the charge, if any, associated with each name, face, memory, or sensation. Notice where there is ease and where there is resistance. Who you choose to balm is up to you. 

For me, the most authentic balms are the ones that emerge:

  • when I’ve thought of someone several times over the last while but haven’t quite made the time to let them know, or
  • when I feel like I have something of substance to say to someone, and our usual means of communication can’t quite hold or do justice to what I want to share with them, or
  • when the balm feels less like an obligation or a favour to this person and more like an expression of what’s already inside me, something that wants to come out of me. 

At this point, you may have landed on a name or a face you would like to balm. You may even have several people in mind. Or you may be dizzy from the flurry of faces and not yet able to pinpoint who you want to balm. If that’s the case, hit pause if you need to and when you have someone in mind, hit play.

Imagine a blank canvas before you. Trust that this canvas will be able to hold all of the thoughts, words, images, emotions, memories, and gratitude that comes out of you over the next while. In the space between you and the canvas, allow yourself to imagine this person. The person you would like to balm. 

How would you describe the person standing in front of you? What qualities, quirks, descriptors and expressions come to mind?

What does this person evoke, inspire, bring up in you, simply by way of existing? 

What is something that feels so central to this person’s essence, such an integral part of who they are, something so obvious to you that you’ve always assumed that they know this about themselves?

Tell them.

What is something that you notice this person doing with a lot of care, intention, and attention?

Tell them.

What are the stories, memories, or interactions that come to mind when you think of this person? Why are these stories so integral to your experience of this person? What are the common threads between these stories, memories, and interactions?

Tell them.

What is something that you’ve noticed about this person that makes you smile? The kind of smile that involuntarily appears on your face as you think of them.

What about this person do you wish they could see as clearly as you do, believe as strongly as you do?

Tell them.

And as you tell them, don’t be afraid to use examples, to tell them, to remind them about that-time-when, to specify exactly what they did or what you saw in them in that moment. To be remembered, to be noticed, is powerful. To have someone reflect you back to you, not only as you are now, but as you’ve evolved over the time that they’ve known you is powerful.

Who or what reminds you of this person? What feelings, sights, sounds, experiences, or ideas do you associate with this person? Analogies and metaphors, where they are sincere, can be powerful. I once had someone that I had just met tell me that the sense that they get from me is equivalent to the safety a child feels when their mom walks into the room. That was 4 years ago, and I still hold those words so close.

What is something that this person does or did that probably feels inconsequential to them, but means or meant a lot to you or someone else?

How have you raved about this person to others that you haven’t shared with them? 

As you’re filling the canvas in front of you with the responses that are emerging from your mind, body, heart, and soul, I invite you to pause for a moment. Take a moment and breathe with me. (Inhale, exhale). 

Are you being honest? 

Is this the real-real? 

Is there anything you’re sugar-coating or holding back?

I ask you this, as I ask myself often, because sometimes we run the risk of getting so caught up in making someone feel good, or constructing the perfect story that we gloss over the parts of us and them that make us human, that make us flawed, that make us people in progress. 

What is the most honest thing you can share with this person?

Where do you see this person struggling? Where do you see them continuing to show up?

What is a side of this person that you’ve only seen glimpses of, but are curious about and want to uplift?

How might you share these things with this person in a way that is both honest and full of care? 

As you layer these observations onto the canvas before you, notice how you’re feeling. 

Whether we realize it or not, whether I care to admit it or not, I think gratitude balms are for us first. While it may be true that we want to share gratitude or make someone feel appreciated, I believe that first and foremost, it’s an expression of what’s inside us, and of what wants to come out. 

So, it’s also our responsibility to make sure that once it’s out, that it’s actually something that we want to share, something that is useful to share. A balm not sent or shared is not an unsuccessful balm. And in these moments, it can be helpful to remember that what comes out of us doesn’t necessarily have to reach others, maybe all it needed was to come out of us.

And where you do decide that you want to share all or part of this canvas with this person, as a gratitude balm, I invite you to think about how you might share it. What medium might they find the most meaningful? Would they prefer a card, a voicenote, an email, a video message, a phone call, a Zoom call, a mailed letter, an album, something shared in private, or something shared in the presence of others, etc. Does this medium feel genuine for you? 

And last but not least, how might you prepare someone to receive your gratitude balm? Receiving love or gratitude may not be an experience that everyone is comfortable with. It can be an intense experience to have someone reflect you back to you. Being and feeling seen can be a vulnerable experience. So, how might you create an opportunity for consent? If you’re sharing with them live, maybe you can ask them if they’d be open to you sharing how you experience them, and whether now is a good time. Perhaps if you’re sending an email or recorded message, you could let them know in the first few lines about the nature of the message and that they might want to read/listen/watch it when they have capacity to receive it. These are simple gestures, and yet in creating these opportunities for this person to make an informed choice, you’re respecting their space and their boundaries and ultimately setting them up to better receive your gratitude. 

And that my friend, is the essence of a gratitude balm. No two are the same, and the ones that you share, if any, will be uniquely yours. 

This practice reminds me, especially in this time, that we are each other’s balms. And the inspiration to share this practice with you was born of repeating the following lines of a poem by American poet, author, and teacher Gwendolyn Brooks. I invite you to take in these words with deep breaths, letting go of anything you want to leave behind with each exhale.

We are each other’s harvest

We are each other’s business

We are each other’s magnitude and bond


We are each other’s harvest

We are each other’s business

We are each other’s magnitude and bond


We are each other’s harvest

We are each other’s business

We are each other’s magnitude and bond

Back To Top Skip to content