This is the time of year when gratitude touches all our lives, when we give thanks for whatever we have and we joyfully help others. One Thanksgiving day we volunteered at a local church to help feed the homeless. It was and still is one of the most heartwarming things we have done, as they were so very thankful: older people, single people, couples, families. It was a gentle reminder to us to be grateful for what we have.
It’s not always easy to be thankful, especially when times are hard, if we are sick, have lost a partner, job, or home. But perhaps those are the very best times to give thanks – for the things we do have, rather than those we don’t have. Rather than bemoaning that we have lost our health we can be grateful for the birds singing outside or the sun warming the window; rather than being jealous of someone who has a job while we don’t, we can be grateful for the free time to spend with ourselves or a loved one.
Deb grew up in England so she didn’t encounter Thanksgiving until she moved to the US in her twenties. Not knowing its history, she just saw it as a wonderful opportunity to remember appreciation and gratitude for all the things that she normally took for granted.
For instance, take a moment right now to appreciate the chair you are sitting on as you read this. Just consider what went into the making of this chair: the wood, cotton, wool or other fibers, the trees and plants that were made into these materials, the earth that grew the trees, the rain and sun, the animals that were involved, the people who prepared the materials, the factory where the chair was made, the designer and carpenter and seamstress, the shop where you bought it—all this just so you could be sitting here now.
Or think of your body and all the different organs and functions and systems that sustain your life, such as your heart, your digestion, or your immune system that protects you from illness. Or the food that nourishes you and where it came from and all the people and plants and weather and transport that were needed to get that food on your table.
You can apply this to everything as nothing is unrelated or disconnected, every single thing is a part of everything else and all are needed to make a whole. It’s so huge, there is no beginning place. There is just an endless stream of connectedness that has come together to enable you to be here right now, in this moment, reading this, sitting on your chair. And you still don’t think you have anything to feel grateful for or worth appreciating?
We invite you to develop an ongoing relationship with gratitude by making a list of things to “remember to appreciate.” You can do this hourly, daily, weekly, finding different things to appreciate each time. Anything can go on that list: each other, toenails, trees, sunshine, the washing machine, walking, hot water, grapefruit, flannel sheets…
What’s on your list? As Thanksgiving is here, let us all try to take some time to say thank you for all those things we usually ignore. Then say “Thank you!” again. Say it out loud over and over. We can never have enough gratitude, let it fill every moment, every thought and every feeling. Experiencing gratitude is totally transforming.
Let us also discover what we can do to make someone else’s life a little easier, or even to ask for help we may need. As our friend Barbara Wilder, author of Money is Love, says, “No matter how little you have, there is always someone who has less. Give whatever you can to someone who could use a little help, and be open to receiving help from others.”
See our award-winning book: BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Jack Kornfield, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Byron Katie and many others.
Deb is the author of the award-winning YOUR BODY SPEAKS YOUR MIND, Decoding the Emotional, Psychological, and Spiritual Messages That Underlie Illness.
Our 3 meditation CD’s: Metta—Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi–Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra–Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at: www.edanddebshapiro.com