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.