In the northern hemisphere we now enter the season of the harvest, marked most obviously by the celebration of Thanksgiving here in the U.S. It’s a time to gather with family and friends and pause to appreciate the abundant bounty that is available to us. It’s a time to share and open our hearts to others. It’s an opportunity to extend our gratitude to all the gifts we have in this lifetime, including the gift of life itself and the opportunity to be alive on this amazing planet.
In a recent conversation with Eva Black Tail Swan, a Cherokee medicine woman, she told me that in her tradition each day the Cherokee start with gratitude. As she wrote about in her ceremony on October 28, “. . . I have come to know that gratitude is more than a feeling. It is something that we can (and in my tradition, must) become. By feeling gratitude within our body and letting go of our mind, we can become the feeling—become gratitude—and through this one simple but powerful thing we come to know our relationship with our Creator as well as with all things and beings in a deeper, truer, and more personal way.”
Of course this can sometimes be very challenging. During times of stress and crisis, such as the one so many have recently faced after being ravished by hurricane Sandy, it may seem impossible to find anything for which to feel thankful. If you’re directly affected by such an event, rather than set an ideal and impossible standard of immediately finding the proverbial silver lining, it’s better to first allow yourself to feel the anguish and pain than to affect an intellectual bypass of these emotions.
We can all look back on various events in our lives and if not right at the time, eventually find the treasures amidst the rubble. The perspective that time brings doesn’t disregard any grief and suffering that occurred but gives us a chance to reflect on what gifts also resulted from that experience.
For instance, several years ago in my hometown of Laguna Beach, there was a massive and memorable fire that destroyed hundreds of homes, though fortunately no lives were lost. One of the most memorable gifts was how the community came together to support those who had experienced such losses in a spirit of camaraderie and cooperation. For myself, a difficult and painful separation and divorce a few years ago positioned me to be more “out front” with my work and opened the door for a wonderful marriage to Jesseca.
As Helen Keller said, “When one door closes, another opens. Yet too often people focus on the closed door and miss the opportunity presented by the open door.” So perhaps with enough practice and clear intention, we can truly become gratitude. At least we can start each day with gratitude as Eva has described and simply see what happens!