I live and write on Lingít Aaní, and gratefully acknowledge the past, present and future caretakers of this beautiful place, the Jilkaat Kwaan and Jilkoot Kwaan.

I am once again at Sarana’s yoga retreat here in Haines. It is so close to home I can walk, which is my favorite way to “vacation.” And this morning, during the meditation we begin each day with, Sarana spoke of gratitude, and then she said some very nice things to our host and cried, and then our host cried, and then Sarana said even nicer things about Haines, and well, everybody got teary as happens when you are all loose-y goose-y in muscle and heart after three days of yoga and thinking good thoughts together.

It reminded me of that Mark Twain line about how  he could live for two months on a good compliment. I was going to make that today’s thought, but there’s more to this.

There is also a dog trainer in town (she will be answering questions during a call-in on KHNS Thursday morning), and so we dog walkers have been attending classes (Pearl is a natural) and learning about treats as rewards and the power of positive reinforcement, and also how not all treats are equal. For instance, kibbles work fine to teach Pearl to lie down when she’s in the house. On the beach? Not so much. There, hot dog pieces work much better. Cheese, too. 

For humans, the highest valued, and longest lasting, treat is a sincere compliment. (Well, some might be swayed by ice cream and wine, but I bet it means more when delivered with a kind word.) The best part, is that praising people when they contribute to our well-being, or make us happy, or do the right thing, creates a better community for everyone. 

Kind of a long thought (and a bit sermon-y, but it is Sunday.) And it’s true, don’t you think?

So why it so hard to say a compliment out loud?  Maybe if we practice it more, it won’t be. (Kind of like yoga.)

As part of the retreat, we had homework. Before going to sleep, Sarana said to think of four moments from the day that brought us joy and say thank you. That’s as good a place as any to begin. Another is to write this down and stick it on the fridge:

“Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”- Poet Mary Oliver