Who do you thank?

Thanksgiving is Monday October 8th here in Canada. Have you ever sat down for Thanksgiving Dinner and felt disconnected? There’s the traditional litany of those to thank and what to thank them for: food, peace, freedom, family and friends, health, success, all worthy of appreciation and our gratitude should we be fortunate enough to have them, particularly in a world where so many lack them. I’ve sometimes felt ashamed and ill at ease at the Thanksgiving table when I just couldn’t connect to a feeling of gratitude. If existence itself is grace, then the bounty piled before me shouldn’t result in me wishing I was alone with a pizza and a good movie.

Discover what you are grateful for

Elsewhere war, famine, pestilence, and disaster thrive. Somehow the more aware I am of how badly off much of the world is, the harder I find it to open to receiving, to acknowledge what I already have. I find myself asking what I can do to reconnect with the spirit of thanksgiving.

“I made cranberry sauce, and when it was done put it into a dark blue bowl for the beautiful contrast. I was thinking, doing this, about the old ways of gratitude: Indians thanking the deer they’d slain, grace before supper, kneeling before bed. I was thinking that gratitude is too much absent in our lives now, and we need it back, even if it only takes the form of acknowledging the blue of a bowl against the red of cranberries.”

― Elizabeth Berg, Open House

The dream that is the inspiration for the novel I am working on was a dream of thanksgiving. In the dream a young woman, is intoxicated by the sense of interdependence and abundance she found in meditating deeply on the bread and corn, squash and fruit that were part of her harvest festival. This gives her a sense of the connection between the people who planted the seed for the grain that became the bread, the baker who fashioned the loaf, and the dairyman whose cows provided the milk to make the butter for the bread and her life. The joy that came from her recognition of interdependence is a memory that brings me back to thankfulness, to connection, when I’ve forgotten who to thank and what I am grateful for.

Starting with my current feeling of restlessness and discomfort, because that’s where I am, I settle into my breath, into the present moment, and reflect on thanksgiving, and on the dream’s gift.

“We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh

Reconnecting to your bounty

Good news! Gratitude is a practice that starts with simple actions.

  • Say “Thank You”

Whether you are saying it to your body, to the rose that offers its bloom, to your family, to the author of your favourite book, or the cook who prepared the thanksgiving feast, expressing your thanks changes what’s going on.

“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”

― Meister Eckhart

  • Open to what you have and concentrate on what is positive and present in your life

By acknowledging and appreciating what we have we cultivate a sense of abundance and grow closer to realizing that existence itself is grace. Don’t forget to include your strengths and your experiences in what you have.

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

― Epicurus

  •  Remember the people in your life

Kindness, compassion and support can come from family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances or strangers.

 At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

― Albert Schweitzer

Join the conversation: What awakens thanksgiving in you? What traditions and rituals help you keep that holiday alive?