I took our dog Cheerios out early this Sunday morning for her usual walk. San Francisco is quiet that early on Sundays. The sky was a clear blue, the air crisp and fresh after a few days of needed rain, and the sun was bright if not yet warming. I felt a deep sense of gratitude being here, alive and awake. Writing about giving thanks this week, exploring just what that might mean, I felt something missing. What I wrote felt more like an intellectual appreciation of life rather than the deeply felt sense of this morning. While there was nothing wrong with that, it just wasn’t full enough.
When I take the time to acknowledge, to really recognize the blessings I have in my life, I appreciate what and who are here in my life rather than take them for granted. Like many others, I grew up learning to keep a keen eye to what was wrong and what could go wrong. This was/ is a defensive posture, helpful when facing immediate threats, but toxic when it became a life style. Since we tend to see what we expect to see, it negatively limited my ability to appreciate life. Even while the good was enjoyed, a part of me still looked for what might go wrong.
I have gradually been developing more of a keen eye for what is right and what can go right in life. Seeing, recognizing what is right and good in my life makes me happier and more grateful. This is a core teaching of Unity, although by no means limited to Unity. Unity’s first principal is that ‘God is goodness, the only enduring power in the world, active and present everywhere.’ If this is so, then even in times of adversity and suffering, God (or at least Good) must also be present. When times are hard it takes more conscious effort to find the good. Of course such times are when we need it the most.
As Americans we are relatively privileged, having opportunities beyond the reach of most other people in the world. Yet suffering is a fundamental part of life for everyone, everywhere. Some people remain positive and able to find joy despite terrible events in their lives. Others, even when they have incredible riches and opportunities, remain enveloped in suffering and fear. I feel happy that I am growing to be more like the first group, able to find the good in most situations. Doing so gives the hurts and problems in life less power to keep me from my good.
Thanksgiving Day can be something more than gorging on food and preparing for a shopping binge. Originally it was an expression of appreciation of the harvest, which the European settlers in New England brought with them. I gather these Pilgrims were not the most cheerful of folks, believing more in austerity than celebration. Yet they were able to appreciate the value of setting time aside to give thanks for life’s bounties. We can embrace their gift of a day for appreciating what we have without either limiting ourselves to their somber ways, nor going to the excesses of over stuffed bellies and over charged credit cards.
Yet Thanksgiving is but one day, one opportunity. What if we use it to begin or deepen a regular practice of gratitude? Lately, each night before going to sleep I think of 3 things or people that I am thankful for that day. It is too new a practice for me to draw conclusions about, but I believe it is helping me be more conscious of the good in my life. Hopefully, this will help me express my gratitude to others more often.
So this Thanksgiving, go ahead and enjoy the food and the company, but pay attention to how much you and those around you are able to give and receive gratitude. Give thanks to God by whatever name if that is meaningful to you. However I believe that unless we also extend that gratitude to those whose lives we share, it’s value will be limited.
Thank you for reading my ongoing venture into living a more conscious, intentional life guided by what I perceive to be God/ Spirit given direction. To the degree you feel moved to share anything in this that touches you, I will also be grateful. After all, this will suggest I am not only writing to myself ☺