THANKSGIVING DAY REFLECTION from Myogen Steve Stücky, 11.28.13

Dear Ones,

First, it is an inspiring thought to dedicate this particular day for giving thanks and put “gratitude” on the national calendar as a shared cultural value. Though any great thought may be tarnished and undermined by our usual self-serving narrowness, here is a window of opportunity that can warm the cockles of my heart and yours. It’s an invitation to each of us as citizens, as one member of the millions of us to be generous with each other and recall the many gifts we receive simply by being alive here in this place and time.

The thought of being an American citizen comes with painfully mixed associations for me, especially as I have studied the history of deceptions and the bias of “national interest” supposedly justifying the drumbeats of decades of war, and the persistent failure of our economic system to meet basic human needs equitably. So it is a relief to have one holiday that holds the potential for a wide-open appreciation of a fundamentally generous world and invites us to rise above stinginess and narrow group interest.

With time today set aside for thanksgiving, one may consider:  how best to use this time as a true expression of gratitude? The “practice of gratitude” for me begins simply with saying the word “gratitude” and allowing whatever arises in thought to be regarded as loveable no matter who or what it may be. This immediately cuts off the mind of personal preference and acknowledges that everything, absolutely everything is fully participating in the fact of my existence this moment.

The challenge of this practice often slaps me in the face and sets off a series of seemingly impossible barriers. These days, as you may know, I wake up and say “gratitude” and the next thought is “pain in the belly” or “cancer” or it’s “not fair!” To accept such thoughts with gratitude may be impossible and even contribute to further unwholesome states of mind. So, it is realistically healthier to enter this practice by creating a field of positive energy by first naming what you know from experience is nourishing for you. For example: “Gratitude”… “for my friend Larry” or “Gratitude” for my mentor, my lover, my mother, the person who changed my life, or “Gratitude” for sobriety, my family, this food, the sunlight, mashed potatoes and gravy, the capacity for healing, etc.

It quickly becomes clear that one can create an infinite list of positive nourishments and the mere fact of being alive tells one that positive—that is, “life supporting”—factors outweigh all others. This is a basis for fundamental confidence in reality. Know that this life is rare and wonderful because it is happening right now with the full support of the universe. Wow.

Once the above truth is clear, it is not so difficult to be kind. One naturally wants to give back to that from which one has received so much. And since one has received, and is now receiving, so much from the mere existence of each other, it’s a perfect time to say “Thank You” (I love you).  I invite you to take up this practice today as a positive nourishment practice for yourself. As you do so, I feel even more gratitude and delight.

Love,
myogen steve

 

4 thoughts on “THANKSGIVING DAY REFLECTION from Myogen Steve Stücky, 11.28.13

  1. Jim Hare

    Dear Steve,
    I accept your invitation to remember what I am positively grateful for. Thanks for inviting me with all beings to this festive holiday. Karen and I have just said goodbye to my brother and some of his family who made the long drive from Flagstaff to see us and our 94 year old parents. Not having had children, we are grateful for the younger generation and the gifts of youth they share with us. And isn’t it amazing how we plow each moment the unbroken ground of time? Wow, indeed.

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  2. Paul Preuss

    Dear Steve —

    By way of thanks for your precise, eloquent, and most timely reminder of gratitude, here is a poem by Ursula Le Guin, inspired by a place Debra and I know, the McCoy Creek ranch near Diamond, Oregon. The creek comes many miles down from Steens Mountain between rimrock mesas before passing the ranch house and the big willow whose leaves Ursula writes about here.

    McCoy Creek: Reflection

    All day the image of a willow leaf
    lies on the surface of the quiet creek.
    With the slow lapse of light in evening
    it vanishes; the light will bring it back.

    The leaf turns gold and dry and falls away.
    April shines and a leaf-shadow trembles
    on shadowed waters. Willow follows willow
    in the same unmoved, long quietness.

    Let me be quiet and my mind reflect
    the shadow of a willow leaf on water.

    ###

    With love and gratitude,
    Paul

    The poem is from “Out Here: Poems and Images from Steens Mountain Country, by Ursula K. Le Guin and Roger Dorband (Raven Studios)

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  3. katharine cook

    Abbot Steve, your talk about gratitude inspired me, and also made me realize that a very similar practice that I have depended on when things are difficult, or even when they are not is the practice of powerlessness as it is used in the 12-step program. In the same way that gratitude allows things to go as they go and be what they are, which in turn allows things to change as they well, so does the practice of stating powerlessness, which is used as the first step in the practice of alcoholics anonymous. “I am powerless over Steve’s cancer” allows me to appreciate what we have in the present moment, or example, the very thoughtful teaching on the practice of gratitude. In a way, it seems to me both practices have the same root, which is basically the practice of mindfulness, or being present with what is.
    Practicing “I am powerless” over whatever arises is what in fact allows it to move and transform, in the same way that practicing gratitude for whatever arises does.
    So thank you again for your careful and thoughtful way, and the tradition of Suzuki roshi practice that we both belong to. Perhaps saying “I am grateful for it” and “I am powerless over it” are two ways of saying the same thing.
    Many blessings. . . Katharine

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  4. John Renwick

    Thank you, Abbot Steve, for continuing to nourish me. I like that, at times, I need to recognize that a plain unwholesome issuance can be acknowledged and then gratitude directed to what is wholesome. Isn’t this just like Thich Nhat Hanh inviting us to water seeds of love, using some discernment to promote a way of understanding?

    So, thank you for your teaching – this instance, as well as the countless others in the short time we encountered one another. I have the feeling of continuing to look for you – not so much that you might appear before me at some time, but that you are using my eyes, seeing through me, threading the needle.

    With love and gratitude (for the particulars and not)
    john

    Reply

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