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Thanksgiving, a Practice of Gratitude

On this Thanksgiving, we face the uncertainties and sufferings wrought by a faltering economy. Not all of us feel abundant right now. Yet, a grateful heart is an open heart.
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"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more... it can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend." - Melody Beattie

Thanksgiving is a quintessentially American holiday, and not surprisingly so. From our beginnings as a nation, immigrants to our shores have had much to be grateful for- bountiful land and resources, immense beauty, diverse cultures that enrich our perspectives and understandings, the promise of freedom and opportunity for all members of our society.

Even before our European forebears came to North America, Native Americans had long practiced gratitude in their daily lives. There were festivals for every part of the growing season and daily rituals of offering and thanks. Indeed, as the land blessed their lives, they returned the blessing. It was the Native Americans who first taught immigrants to share wealth knowing that it was meant for all, that indeed it belonged to everyone and no one person or group. As a spiritual lesson on abundance, it is that first Thanksgiving that models a conscious act of gratitude even in the midst of hardship. Sometimes it is in the midst of our greatest sense of deprivation that we find the source of our greatest abundance and strength. On this Thanksgiving, we face the uncertainties and sufferings wrought by a faltering economy. Not all of us feel abundant right now. If anything we may be focused on lack.

Yet, a grateful heart is an open heart. An open heart allows compassion to flow outward, abundance and understanding to flow inward. We cannot receive fully if we cannot open our hearts in gratitude. Gratitude enhances even the simplest act, mitigates the poorest circumstances, fuels the smallest flames of hope and compassion. Gratitude requires recognition and acceptance of the perfection and fullness of each moment. In gratitude, we are not looking for more, we are opening fully to what is. We focus on what is good in our lives and in doing so invite healing and more goodness. We loosen our own resistance to the flow of life, expand our narrow view, and transform the experience of even our own smallest self.

How to cultivate gratitude? First begin by taking one moment each day to recognize something for which you are grateful. You can write this down in a journal, make a mental note of it, or simply allow it take up residence in your heart. As you commit to this practice, you will begin to notice more things. You will be inviting that awareness, ever expanding the possibility of more and more cause for gratitude. In this Thanksgiving season we are reminded to be thankful for this country, the bounty that we have been given. Let us through our thanks invite the flow of abundance and honor it with our gracious stewardship and by sharing it with others as the Native Americans did before us.

An Iroquois Prayer
We return thanks to our mother, the earth, which sustains us. We return thanks to the rivers and streams, which supply us with water. We return thanks to all herbs, which furnish medicines for the cure of our diseases. We return thanks to the corn, and to her sisters, the beans and squash, which give us life. We return thanks to the bushes and trees, which provide us with fruit. We return thanks to the wind, which, moving the air, has banished diseases. We return thanks to the moon and the stars, which have given us their light when the sun was gone. We return thanks to our grandfather He-no, who has given to us his rain. We return thanks to the sun, that he has looked upon the earth with a beneficent eye. Lastly, we return thanks to the Great Spirit, in whom is embodied all goodness, and who directs all things for the good of his children.

Kay Goldstein, MA teaches meditation and writes poetry, fiction and articles addressing the challenges and joys of daily living and spiritual practice.