By Joleen Halloran | November 19, 2012
“To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.” Johannes A. Gaertner
This week, in America, we will be celebrating what many of us consider our favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. Almost every one of us has a memory or two about this special day. The Thanksgiving holiday is not only representative of our countries humble beginnings, but also of our countries flowing abundance. The tradition of gathering family and friends together to enjoy a big feast mimics the pilgrims feast with their new neighbors, the helpful natives of this country. Most families gather together to share a ridiculous amount of food and spend the day in relaxed camaraderie. Over the years, this day, for many, has morphed into a day of over indulgence, blessed time off from the drudgery of our work lives, tolerating family gatherings, and the phenomenal kick-off of the media sensationalized “holiday” season. The spirit of the day, from the humble and life-saving gratitude of our countries pioneers, has been lost with a focus on food excessiveness and readiness to prepare ourselves for the buying frenzy our culture participates in with the upcoming celebration of spiritual holidays.
Forgetting the intent of the origin of the holiday, which is gratitude, can diminish this special day, because instead of expressing our gratitude with a ritual celebration of what we cherish most, God, the bounty of family, neighbors, food, and life – we stress about the meal, the costs involved, the seating or time arrangements, and how we can eat and still make it to be the first one in the door for the Black Friday sales events. As a young mother several years ago, although I still have many great memories of my kids eating their favorites foods, or family members dozing off watching TV in an L-Tryptophan induced coma, Thanksgiving was a stress induced day of beating the clock to prepare food and resentment for the inequality of people who participated and those that didn’t. Perhaps because of my maturing attitude about life, or perhaps because I now tend to view all things from a spiritual perspective, I view Thanksgiving in a new, and perhaps, originally intended light.
One thing most people don’t realize about the pilgrims, even as we learned about them in school, is how truly grateful they were to be able to have a celebration like they did. Most of the pilgrims that set sale on the Mayflower expired on the trip over or died shortly after reaching land in Plymouth, from things like exposure, scurvy or starvation. Only one half of the original pilgrims survived the trip and their first winter in America. Had it not been for the graciousness and patience of the Native Americans they encountered upon exploring their newfound landing area, these explorers would have continued to dwindle away, or be killed by hostile natives. Coming from a different country, the pilgrims had no idea what food sources were available, nor did they have any means to know how to cultivate or hunt successfully. The synchronicity of encountering these natives (as opposed to hostile ones), and landing in this spot (with a bounty of abundant land and turkeys, obviously), is not lost on me. These first pioneers were literally grateful for their very lives. Certainly, things could have easily turned out very differently for them, which in turn, could have changed the course of American history for us.
Nowadays, thankfully, most of us do not have to worry about where our next meal will come from, or being eaten by predators or killed by unfriendly neighbors, and in a way, you might think that this would even further enhance our level of gratitude, but instead, it seems that it has only numbed us from it. Although, gratitude is a state of mind that everyone should be experiencing every day, with Thanksgiving Day fast approaching, I invite you all to consider your blessings and find some amazing inspiration from your rugged ancestors.
Let’s not just be satisfied with saying a nice prayer before we sit down to eat our big dinner. Let’s take some private time to seriously count our blessings and consider what gifts we have been given. Sure I know we all have some things that have not gone our way, but focusing on this aspect of our lives continues to aggravate our sense of lack and dissatisfaction with our life. Use this special day, where some of our most precious gifts are laid before us, like family, friends, abundant food, love, joy, rest and goodwill, to immerse yourself in appreciation.
A life lived in appreciation is a life being lived. What I mean by that is, when we are not “living” from a place of appreciation, we are obviously living then from its opposite, a place of dissatisfaction. Although it is possible to have a little of both, when there is a focus on what you do not like about your current conditions, there is a tendency to promote more feelings of suffering, like fatigue, stress, irritation, and even despair or depression. Contrary to this, living each moment in a deep appreciation of where we are in the moment and enjoying gifts that we have been graced with, creates an attitude of openness, peace, joy, and an overall abundant mindset.
One of my favorite quotes about gratitude is from the gentle Tibetan monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, “Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” To me, this simple gesture to gratify every moment we live and breathe is the epitome of living in a state of gratitude. It is true that many of us have differing levels of outward prosperity, success, or family – but ALL of us, if we are here, in this moment, have something to be appreciative of, and that is – we are here in THIS MOMENT! Sometimes this moment may not feel very good, but let me tell you, as a human, this moment when realized and awakened to, is a much better alternative than NOT being here in this moment.
We are blessed to have a day designated in our culture to re-connect with our divine gifts and the gifts of our daily living. Despairing over anything that is missing in our lives will surely help to emphasize that lack. But, rejoicing over what is abundant in our lives, will surely expand that abundance. Take the opportunity this holiday provides, to expand your practices and rituals of giving thanks. Be the role model to your family of what true appreciation for life looks like, regardless of what you current circumstances are. The wise spiritualist will always look towards the light, instead of into the darkness. I think if you allow it, and take the time and effort to become very still and open, you will discover a new surge of love and appreciation for many things in your life, including the very moment you are experiencing. I wish everyone a warm and blessed Thanksgiving. May your blessing be multiplied and your hearts be full.
“God gave you a gift of 86 400 seconds today. Have you used one to say thank you ”
― William Arthur Ward
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