With the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. this week, I want to take a moment to let you know that your presence in this world matters more than you will ever know. Make some time to express gratitude for yourself this week. Let go of self-judgment and really feel into this gratitude for your be-ing and the many blessings you bring to our world.

Holiday time can generally be stressful for most people, and with the many tragic world events unfolding this month most of us are facing additional stress. Gratitude is such a potent energy for helping us reconnect to our center and deepest purpose, especially when we’re dealing with stressful situations, be it local or global.

In the wake of the tragic terrorist attacks of the past few weeks, I would like to share with you my personal story with terrorist violence and how it’s helped me in confronting the violence facing our world right now.

At 21, I was nearly murdered twice by terrorists while living in Togo, West Africa, a beautiful country I had lived in before that was sadly crumbling into violent tragedy. In the second attack, right before I was going to be killed, I asked for Divine Intervention and promised that if my life was saved, I would dedicate the rest of my time here on our planet helping others and making our world a better place.

I was fortunate that my attackers did not have automatic weapons or bombs but instead had fire and gas in one incident, and bludgeoning tools they had made from wood and metal in the others. Horrifying as this was, it gave me the opportunity to pray for help and speak to my captors, which saved my life in both instances (and those I was with), otherwise I wouldn’t be here writing this today.

I didn’t talk about these experiences publicly until this year. In part because I did not want to contribute to negative stereotypes of Africans (who are generally the most gracious people you’ll ever know) and also because this and the other terrorist violence that I experienced and witnessed, as traumatic as it was personally, seemed somewhat insignificant compared with the constant horrors that so many in the world live with on a daily basis, from which they have very little opportunity of escape.

Being from the U.S., I was able to leave Togo as it teetered on the brink of civil war, which I eventually decided to do after it became too difficult to teach, visit with friends or do the research I had come there to do. Those experiences inspired me to go to anthropology grad school where I studied not only indigenous healing and culture, but also the history of colonialism and empire that caused the political crisis I had been in and many others in our world. In the years following, I returned to West Africa to research women’s empowerment and also sought healing for the PTSD I was experiencing. This led me to my life’s work as a coach and healer and eventually manifested in creating the Transform Coaching Academy, which teaches the powerful tools that helped me and my clients heal and thrive and are now being spread throughout the world through the work of our magnificent Certified Coaches.

Later while living in DC during the September 11th attacks, I was able to use these tools to help many clients in Washington and New York recover from the trauma of terrorism. Being in both DC and West Africa during those times helped me realize that we can live in fear in the face of such violence and in essence, let the terrorists terrorize us. Or we can choose to embrace life and freedom, sharing the gifts we have been blessed to learn to help lift up others as well as ourselves.

Right now, people throughout the world feel afraid, powerless or lost. You have gifts that help others move out of fear and back into their hearts so they can heal from this sort of deep trauma. The world needs you to share your gifts and shine!

I encourage you to acknowledge and celebrate your role in our collective healing. You truly have gifts that help in raising the collective consciousness more than you know.

Together we can birth a more conscious, just and peaceful world. We have the ability as humans to do that, and we, along with millions of others, are the midwives birthing this new reality into our world even in the midst of all the challenges we face. I would love to hear how you’ve been supporting yourself and others during this time as well as how I can support you—please post below and let us know.

May your week be filled with grace and gratitude.

If you are celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope your holiday is wonderful.