In class this week, we discussed what deep gratitude means to us. I suggested that it is a ballast in our being. The way a sailboat has ballast that keeps it from turning over though it leans in the wind, when we are deeply grateful for this present moment, whatever is occurring, rather than being only grateful for the blessings we can list, then we stay afloat in the sea of life.
Here is a collection of past posts on gratitude to draw from if you are needing inspiration.
Meanwhile, let's talk turkey. Or, let's not! We are so fortunate that our national holiday is focused on something so deeply satisfying as contemplating gratitude, whether it is deep gratitude for being alive or for the wonderful blessings and people we have or have had in our lives.
When we switch the focus to the food we put on the table and think of it as just feast and football, it's such a downgrade of the holiday. It also leaves out vegans and vegetarians, making them feel as if they are not experiencing the real deal. In fact, one of the most delicious Thanksgiving feasts I ever ate was while on retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center a few years back. It was a vegetarian's delight of seasonal delicacies, and not a turkey in sight. (Really! Not even outdoors where wild turkeys abound except for that week before Thanksgiving where they suddenly just go into hiding. The day after Thanksgiving they return! Public opinion to the contrary, apparently turkeys aren't all that stupid.) Being on retreat, we were all in silence. Teja Bell played music for us as we entered the dining hall, and the meal was served by Spirit Rock teachers and their families. How dear to be dished up squash by Jack Kornfield, and how especially touching it was to have Skye, the young son of teacher and author Anne Cushman, dole out a roll. I hadn't seen him since he was an infant teaching our class how to do a proper up-dog pose in Friday AM meditation and yoga class.
Whether you eat turkey or not, why not give the meaning of the day its due? If you eat turkey, you might try to choose one that had the chance for a good life. If you don't eat turkey, thanks, but try not to be too self-righteous. Plants are also sensate beings that we eat to survive. But in all cases, let's take some time to acknowledge with gratitude the bounty before us, the beauty around us and the life-buddies beside us, no matter how flawed we may consider them to be.
Not feeling so grateful? That's okay too. Just focus on the myriad of physical sensations of being here in this moment. Notice that mound of woes and worries as something that's just a part of your experience, not the whole thing. Just for now. You are alive and life is full of options, even in this very moment. Gratitude for even the littlest thing can open a world of joy.