Thanksgiving and Gratitude
In a recent blog, I spoke about the power of words. I can’t help myself. I’m a language teacher and I love playing with words and expressions. I like to take a word, and say it to myself , and then see what it brings up for me…. images, sensations, feelings, thoughts. Approaching the holiday of Thanksgiving, I began to to think, what really does the word "thanksgiving” mean to me? Every single person on this planet, in every language will have his/her own thoughts, feelings, and memories that are associated with this word. I’m not just referring to the holiday of Thanksgiving, but of the word itself, all the connotations and connections and feelings that it brings up. Everyone gives personal meaning to the word “thanksgiving” based on past experiences and conditioning, including but not limited to: religious upbringing, family relationships, school influences, cultural and even social media.
For me, the word “thanksgiving” definitely evokes images of the holiday season. Family get togethers were for the most part enjoyable, other than some bickering about who would host Thanksgiving dinner. But once we were all together, we had a good time. As we sat at the table, we never forgot to say “grace”. The word “thanksgiving” also goes way back for me, and that word is synonymous with the word “grateful”. I have many memories of hearing my mother say to me, “Be grateful”. As I would sit at the kitchen table as a young girl with a mouthful of lima beans that I wanted to spit out, she would say, “Be grateful for the food on your plate, there are starving kids in India.” All I could think of was how could I possibly be grateful for lima beans. Or, when I had to wear all the hand me downs since I was the youngest, my mother would say, “Be grateful to God for what you have, some kids don’t even have a winter coat to wear”. The words, “give thanks and be grateful” did not resonate with me at all. Instead, the words brought up images of a God somewhere out there and above me who had complete power over me, pulling the strings as if I were a puppet. I could not possibly understand in my mind or in my heart why I would “be grateful" for things that weren’t going my way. Why would I be grateful to “Him” when it was his decision that determined whether things went “right” or “wrong”, or whether “I received or didn’t receive” this or that. I simply could not understand how one could be grateful for what I considered the bad things. It was hard for me to say I was grateful, much less feel it.
Just articulating this, I admit that I sound like an ungrateful brat. But, I’m being honest here. In no way could I sense the deeper wisdom in my mother’s words. She had a heart of gold and was speaking from a much deeper level. From my logical mind, I could only see being grateful to God for all the good things in life: the material things as well as the fulfillment of outcomes and expectations that I had determined were “good for me” if they went my way. This could turn into a whole philosophical discussion. Scholars have written books on why God allows bad things to happen to good people, but that’s not what I’m addressing here in this blog.
I certainly have evolved spiritually from where I was back then. What does “being grateful” mean to me now? It is no longer simply an action to be carried out to show that you are grateful, or words to be expressed to demonstrate that things have gone your way. For me it goes much deeper than that. It is a state of “being”, a state of consciousness. It is a state of grace beyond any and all attachments to outcomes, expectations, illusions. It is a transformation of perception, a transcendence beyond the ego. It is a portal to the divine within that transcends the ego, the duality of right and wrong, good and bad. When I allow myself to be in that state of grace it is there, in that moment, that out of grace flows gratitude. Grace is the portal to a powerful heartfelt state of oneness with the “Source of All that Is”. Grace guides me gently and deeply within to that eternal dimension where I again recognize and remember the universal being of light and love that I am. In this space of the “I Am Present Moment”, gratitude fills my heart and this consciousness expands, filling every cell in my body and radiating outward.
So, yes, my mental mind could go on for pages and pages of what I am grateful for, and pages upon pages of what I’m not so grateful for. But, the gratitude that I’m referring to emanates from recognizing that the spark of light that I am, is also the spark of light that you are, and the same spark of light that my “enemy” is. It affirms life as it is at this moment. This life is ours to create from the divine perfection, divine wisdom, and divine beings of light and love that we are. The circumstances and events around us are always changing, sometimes good and sometimes bad, as we perceive life through the human lens of the ego. Opening our hearts and allowing grace to guide us into that space of “being gratitude”, then the ever changing circumstances outside of us, good or bad depending on one’s perception, can never cause us to lose sight of who we really are.
I dedicate this blog to my dear mother, Evelyn, who transitioned from this world at age 97, and on Nov. 13th she would have been 107 years old. My mother was able to hold that space of gratitude in her heart through her depth of wisdom, faith, and compassion. Years later, I am no longer that child who reacted in anger, confusion, and frustration to her words, “Be grateful”. Because, the truth is I am “gratitude” in the depth of my being. I can not separate myself from it. And it comes from a truth within that I know and feel, that transcends any outside circumstances, outcomes, or conclusions that I hold as right or wrong. When I get knocked off balance, as I certainly did last week with the outcome of the presidential election, I remember to call on grace to guide me through the portal to the space within, where I know gratitude in my heart even when my ego would rather drag me to a space of dissilluionment.
I invite you to ponder how you access gratitude in your life when the circumstances surrounding you are mired in the “illusion of separation”. From grace and gratitude will flow peace and tranquility. We have the power always to access this state of consciousness and demonstrate the truth of who we are. The light will always shine through the darkness.