The Practice of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is a season when we take a little time to feel thankful for the things we have and for all the bounty of our lives.  I tend to think of it as a time to celebrate the things that are going well in my life, the aspects of members of my family that I enjoy, and the good food that I get to eat.  It can be summed up with the phrase, “let’s highlight the good and ignore the unpleasant for just one day, if possible.”

The practice of gratitude is a lovely one.  There are so many things to celebrate, from the general to the specific.  For example, the Pilgrims didn’t starve to death because the Wampanoag Indians took pity and shared their food so our fore-families could establish the colonies and then fight for independence so that we could live on this land that became our country with all sorts of freedom and privilege.   Yay.  We have lovely people in our families and with those folks, we have a shared history and experience that bonds us and connects us to one another and we can count on each member of our families for certain things.  Yes.  Each of us has a healthy body, an active and engaged mind and the breath. Beautiful.

Here’s the thing…  We all know the United States of America wasn’t and isn’t perfect.  Family members can trigger serious reactions because those relationships are muy complicados and sometimes the relationship to this body, mind and breath that we live in isn’t so simple either.  Just “focusing on the positive” feels a little fake.  It’s an incomplete experience and when we just look at the good, we disconnect from our intellect, our emotional experience and from the experience of the senses.

So, what do we do?   I’m going to suggest that we practice gratitude for the WHOLE, MESSY, COMPLICADO parts of our lives and relationships and country.  Why?  It is all a part of our human experience.  We can acknowledge that there is beauty and good AND there are some things on the other end of the spectrum of experience that are difficult and ugly.  It’s all part of the same package.  Sometimes, around holidays we put extra stress on ourselves to, “just enjoy yourself and don’t worry about all the stuff your family does that drives you crazy…”  and that makes holidays harder.  Acknowledge the easy and the difficult.  Let it all be and practice gratitude for this beautiful, complicated and delicious Thanksgiving holiday.

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