cross-posted from The Dream Antilles
A ritual and a practice.
At our house, when we have Thanksgiving dinner, we like to stop eating and talking to go around the table clockwise so that each person present can say what s/he is thankful for. When we first decided to do this, some of our guests felt this was awkward, perhaps embarrassing. But we don’t start with the guests, so they can get an impression of what expressing gratitude feels like. Those in our immediate family understood this and were comfortable enough with it. After all, at birthdays, we like to go around the table to tell the person celebrating the birthday our many appreciations of him/her. So on Thanksgiving, it’s a natural enough question, “What are you thankful for this year?” The answers aren’t always surprising. We’re thankful for being here another year, for our health however it might then be, for family and friends, for the lives of those now departed, for whatever abundance we may have received, for creativity, for our pets, for our relationships, for our businesses, for our politics, for our dreams and aspirations and hopes, and so on. You get it, you can probably feel it even reading about doing this. It’s a Thanksgiving ritual we love. Feel free to try it out.
I always loved Thanksgiving because, however it was intended or begun, it seemed to be about gratitude. For years I’ve had a practice I’ve done. Sometimes I do it every day. Sometimes I do it once a month. Sometimes I don’t do it for a long time. It depends. What do I do? I make a list of the things I am thankful for. I number them as I write them down, and I feel my gratitude for each item as I write it before going on to the next. So, I write, “1. my good health, 2. the life of Dr. King, 3. compassion for my seeming enemies, 4. the novels of Cesar Aira.” And so on. Until I reach 50. I do this, writing and feeling, until I have a list of 50 items or more that I have enjoyed and felt my thanks for. When I am feeling pinched, stressed, exhausted, depressed, or any other “negative” emotion, it seems to take me a very long time to find items, to write them down and really to feel them. When I am feeling expansive, relaxed, rested, optimistic, or any other “positive” emotion, it takes me virtually no time to write and enjoy the list. Why do this exercise? Because it’s almost magical. And it lights me up. Feel free to try it out.
Was it Meister Eckhart who wrote, “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.” I agree.
May all of you have a happy Thanksgiving.