Important Lessons on Gratefulness from Thanksgiving
- POSTED ON MAY 30, 2019
I love Thanksgiving! What’s not to love? A whole day, devoted to being with loved ones, eating great food and giving thanks for the rampant abundance in our lives... for our own personal “horn of plenty.”
Often we think of gratitude as being sourced from the circumstances of our life. We fall in love or do some work we really enjoy or come across some kind of a windfall. We can then be grateful for the abundance of love, of joy in our work or of surprising abundance coming our way.
In actuality, it is the other way around. When we practice gratitude as a way of moving through our days with our hearts open, we can savor the incredible richness of life with all of its diverse challenges and experiences. In this practice, we can be grateful for the experience of the death of a loved one, even as we mourn their passing. We can find our way to gratitude for challenges and hardships and sit in profound appreciation for the times when things are not so pretty and rosy.
There is value in every thing that happens in our world, the darkness and the light. One person’s ability to foment hate will cast love in a whole new light. In the weaving of our lives, it sometimes difficult to tell why certain things are there and yet, over time their meaning and contribution becomes clear. It is both humbling and uplifting to practice gratitude for those things that life hands us that we don’t yet understand.
I once heard my friend Lynn Twist make a distinction between gratefulness and thanksgiving. Gratefulness, Lynn said, is what happens when the bowl of our life is filled to the brim with gratitude. Thanksgiving is what happens when that bowl of our life is so full that it overflows with love and generosity and a desire to serve and contribute.
This is a wonderful way to move through our days... filling ourselves up with gratefulness and allowing that to overflow into thanksgiving. This is both simple and challenging. It is easy to be grateful for the simple pleasures of life... for eyes that can see the beautiful ocean and ears that can hear soaring music; for the miracle of the life giving breath that enters and leaves our body in each moment; for diversity of interesting, lovely, challenging people that fill our days.
Yes, this is easy... except when it is not! Sometimes I don’t feel very grateful at all. I feel annoyed and put upon and resentful or frightened and frustrated and overwhelmed. What then? In my experience, if I can find the tiniest little thing to be grateful for I can usually (not always but very often) follow that thread back to gratitude. It might start verrrry simply... perhaps by being grateful for the cool color of my toenail polish. It’s easy then to move on to gratitude that I have toes to polish... that they wiggle and move and so on and then I’m on to being grateful for the many other wonderful gifts in my life. I find gratitude in any form a real perspective shifter. After an amazingly short period of time, I am able to view whatever is bugging me from a place of self-authority and power rather than as victim.
Practicing gratitude in this way is like carving out a path to a sweet cabin in the woods. ..the more often we travel the path, the more worn and easy it is to find.
There are always plenty of things to be grateful for just as there are always plenty of things about which to be really grumpy. We weave the fabric of our lives every day from wherever material we choose. The choice is always ours and we make that choice real moment by moment.
It is these day-by-day choices that allow us to weave a life rich with gratefulness and thanksgiving or a life frayed with resentment and bitterness and cynicism. The choice is always ours.
What are you weaving today?