127 Hours to Grounding, Gratitude, and Grace

Happy Holidays! As readers of last month’s ezine may know, I’ve been busy finishing my free e-book and audio exercises for holiday stress, The Pleasure of Presents Presence. Now that it’s done, I’m excited to share the full recipe to help you bring grounding, gratitude, and grace back during this über-stressful season.

Last week as I watched the new movie 127 Hours starring James Franco (spoilers below), I couldn’t help seeing these three pivotal qualities
in the compelling true story of Aron Ralston, a 20-something outdoor buff whose 2003 day hike in Utah’s remote Canyonlands becomes a nightmare when a shifting boulder pins his hand against a canyon wall. With little food or water and not a soul knowing his whereabouts, Aron’s odds are slim. As he exhausts all attempts to escape and his mind grows dim, death is fast becoming a probability.

During his fifth night, a hallucinating Aron has a vision of a little boy he takes to be his future son, and the next morning, with renewed hope and in a frustrated rage, he realizes he can torque his body and break the bones that had stopped him when he’d first tried to sever his trapped forearm with a cheap pocket knife he’d brought.

In a little more than an hour he is finally free after amputating his arm,
but he still has to rappel down a 60-foot cliff and hike nearly seven miles, losing blood the whole time, before a search helicopter finds him and takes him to a hospital.

Great, but what does that have to do with holiday stress?

I share this amazing, inspiring story of survival because it makes crystal clear how Aron’s experience of “the three Gs”–grounding, gratitude, and grace (along with a lot of guts and grit)–help him deal with intense stress, stay sane, and make it out alive. In some ways, his trial is like the story of the trapped Chilean miners whom I wrote about in October. But unlike the miners, Aron was alone, and no one knew he was missing for days. So if he could get through his ordeal by finding these qualities in himself and his situation, perhaps you can use them to get through yours.


When Aron first gets trapped by the boulder in 127 Hours, he’s shown spending what was probably hours struggling to dislodge it by pushing against it with all his weight (at 800 pounds, not a chance). At one point he yells in frustration, “This is insane!” Which is totally understandable. But what’s more revealing of his character is how he soon says firmly to himself, “Aron. Do. Not. Lose it.” It’s clear to him that he can’t afford to panic. Instead, he takes out all his belongings and instructs himself to “just think” about how they might help him.

Though he is literally stuck, Aron could have easily become mentally unhinged. But he decides to stay grounded and calm enough to prevent panic, conserve water, and come up with several smart, if failed, solutions for getting out of his predicament. Without this grounded clarity he would surely have perished. So your first line of defense is always to come back to grounding, and my e-book gives several exercises and audio downloads to help you learn how to do so in many holiday-specific and everyday situations.


You’d think gratitude would only come after Aron’s safety was assured. But he feels grateful for many things over the time he’s trapped in Blue John Canyon. In one especially moving scene, Aron sees morning sunlight pouring into the narrow canyon and leans into its rays to feel them on his skin; his gratitude is palpable. Aron also comes to feel thankful for the family he’d taken for granted too often. And after his initial escape from the boulder, he gets down and kisses them when he finds climbing anchors on the ledge of the cliff he rappels down, without which he’d be stuck there.

At a pivotal point Aron says, “Thank you”–to the experience, to the place he was trapped, or maybe both. It’s a quietly telling moment of who he is now and how his view of life has forever changed. Did gratitude save Aron? Perhaps not. But in his gratefulness for the sunlight, his family, and the climbing anchors, Aron refuels enough to want to keep fighting when darkness and bitterness could have closed in all around him. So, yes, even in your craziness and holiday stress, there is something to be grateful for, already there and waiting to be seen. This brings us to the point of grace.


“Grace” has several meanings, but one of my favorites is the unexplained, sometimes unwarranted bestowing of blessings or divine assistance. Often it’s a force that may become more clearly seen after we feel gratitude for what is there already. Even in your stress, if you can be grateful for one thing, you may see grace at work where you wouldn’t have otherwise.

If you are in deep need and looking out for salvation, grace may visit you as it seems it did Aron in the vision of his son that gave him strength and hope to try again the next day, and led to the further graces of his eleventh-hour discovery of the life-saving solution for escape, the anchors, and the rescue helicopter finding him before he bled to death. Aron’s odds were slim indeed, but his grounded presence and gratitude helped him to be more open to a grace that led not just to survival but a full life forever changed and eyes newly opened to the possibility of miracles.

Though none of us would wish his ordeal on ourselves or anyone, we can take his lessons learned and practice what we can of them on our own challenges; they are enough.

I heartily welcome you to read and use my new e-book to help you do just that this holiday season, and I wish you peace and joy in this season of renewal!

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