In our family, Thanksgiving Day dinner has been a time for everyone around the table to take a few moments to share whatever we are most thankful for as we prepare to enjoy the fall feast.
As I gaze at the cherished faces that surround me, I am filled with pride in the smart, honest, hard-working, loving men and women sitting here with me; and I’m profoundly thankful for each one of them, because each, in his or her own special way, is a blessing to me.
No life is without pain, and each of us around the Thanksgiving table has had our share of struggle. But we’ve been lucky; we’ve loved and been loved, and we’ve come through our personal dark nights stronger and wiser for having endured.
And I’m so very grateful!
Just lately I’ve begun trying to become more aware of those moments that call forth thankfulness as they occur during each day, not just that one day a year. And you know what? If you happen to be looking for them, it’s a truly stunning thing to realize how many thanks-giving moments can fill one single day of a very ordinary life.
I think of this practice as my “Attitude of Gratitude.”
Not too many years ago, I discovered the teachings of Brother David Steindl-Rast, co-founder of A Network for Grateful Living (Ang*l), which provides education and support for the practice of grateful living as a global ethic.
According to this website, the practice of gratefulness can move people in four directions:
“In our personal lives, it has (1) an inward aspect, restoring courage; and (2) an outward aspect, inspiring generosity.
In our social lives, it can be focused (3) one-to-one, reconciling relationships, or it can be focused (4) further afield: as an instrument for healing our Earth through reverence for nature, inter-generational respect, interfaith dialogue, and awareness of opportunities to serve.
These four directions add up to a commitment to live in the light of all we’ve been given. That means living fearlessly and therefore non-violently.”
Buddhism has a somewhat similar practice, called Naikan (or Nei Quan), which is a way of looking into the truth of ourselves. I gather the bits and pieces of my day and consider them. What have I received or been supported by today? What did I give in return? What difficulties did I cause to another?
When I reflect like this about the course of my day, I can clearly see evidence of my blundering, as well as the generous gifts I have myself received. But the practice doesn’t stop there.
Pureland Buddhism also includes the practice of Chih Quan, in which, having explored my day’s motley collection of gifts and hurts and stumblings, I offer it to the Mystery (by any name you wish to use) with the thought, “Do with it as you will – do with me as you will.” Chih Quan is the offering of my daily life, item by item, good and bad, day by day by day.
As Dharmavidya, Head of the Order of Amida Buddha, says, “Only when we freely give what we are, just as it is, do we feel the love that shines in the Eye of the World.”
That’s abundance, man. Pure abundance.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
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