As we approach the Thanksgiving break, it seems a good time to reflect a bit on the place of gratitude in our lives. This time of year I’ve noticed many folks on Facebook practicing a 30-day thankfulness challenge. Each day the person acknowledges something or someone in their lives for which they are grateful and appreciative. Sometimes the references include a member of their family, the security of a good job, the beauty of autumn, etc. Yet other times people acknowledge that even challenges and seeming setbacks can teach important life lessons. I’m especially touched by others’ ability to reflect on difficult circumstances such as loss or illness with a thankful spirit. Finding the proverbial silver lining within the cloud is a skill I have yet to master, but I’m working on it!
Like any other skill, the more we practice being grateful, the more able and adept we become in feeling thankful regardless of the situation in front of us. One of my daily spiritual practices is to read a very brief meditation from the website: www.Gratefulness.org. I have found that beginning my morning with a positive reminder of goodness and blessing helps infuse my spirit for the rest of the day.
While there is benefit in looking for specific moments to be especially thankful, cultivating an ongoing attitude of gratitude helps us view life with a more positive perspective no matter what life presents us. As the website reminds us:
“Gratefulness surfaces whenever we remember that life itself is a precious gift that is irrefutably impermanent; this paradox allows the vulnerability and potency of gratefulness to become the lens through which we experience the fullness of our lives. Gratefulness is a distinct state of being that encourages and allows us to more consistently hold a sense of wonder, and to see the poignancy of opportunity in every moment. These are the hallmarks of grateful living— seeing wonder and opportunity within every moment, and recognizing the possibility of learning from everything that happens.”
As I write these words I’m keenly aware that many of us are dealing with incredibly difficult challenges right now personally and interpersonally. I also know that so many of us continue to reel in horror as violence and terrorism rages around the globe. How to be grateful in the midst of tragedy in our own lives and also far away? Perhaps we can hold the sorrow and grief, the anger and the despair, the confusion and the uncertainty in gentle ways. Maybe we can give ourselves permission to sit with all that feels negative and destructive and honor those feelings by acknowledging them, validating them, trusting that those emotions too may have lessons to teach us. May we look for and lean into loved ones who can help us to bear our burdens, even as we seek ways to help others carry their heavy loads also. In doing so, we deepen our sense of gratitude for all that life holds and for the people who surround us, in good times and in bad.
May this Thanksgiving find us aware and grateful that both blessings and burdens have lessons to help us navigate the river of life with grateful hearts and open spirits.