There is a tradition on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Blog. Every Monday, I cite a quote or a poem that is related to mindfulness and psychotherapy in some way and then explore it a bit and how it is relevant to our lives. For me, quotes and poetry can often sink me into a state of greater understanding. So for today, here is a quote by Mother Teresa:
“We can do no great things – only small things with great love.”
If you haven’t heard this quote before it is a classic and so meaningful to our everyday lives. In essence, this is a quote that can be seen as embodying the essence of humility. However, I think there’s also a different way to see it.
In times of anxiety or depressed mood, a number of unwanted feelings arise and the mind tends to look at the mountain and not see the little steps it takes to get up that mountain. As a result, it seems completely overwhelming to climb the mountain and motivation is sapped immediately leading to inaction which then confirms the depressed mood.
What if we were able to summon this quote when we were feeling overwhelmed to remind us that we don’t have to do a great thing (e.g., cleaning the entire house, working out for a hour, making a gourmet dinner), but instead can break it down to do small things, with great love.
One time I was explaining this to a man I was working with who was an artist. He made pottery. He said, “I don’t understand, when I make the pot I just go ahead a make it. However, I’m not feeling motivated to make pottery lately and so I just don’t do it, I’m such a failure.” As we got into it, we began to break down his work into little things.
He had to decide which clay to buy, get his tools prepared, wedge the clay and then spend time with it shaping it. There were other steps involved too.
I said to him, …