Having suffered several losses in my family over the years, I must admit that it has changed my view of gratitude. Before my mom and brother got sick and passed away, I might have offered thanks for the obvious (and usually external) things—like financial stability, friends and family, or perhaps my home, abilities, and opportunities.
But watching my mom slowly lose one faculty after the next from ALS—first losing her speech then her strength in her legs, then in her hands, until she was completely paralyzed—I realized how much I took for granted in my life. We often have no clue how grateful we “should” be until we are threatened with losing something. Perhaps that is why loss happens, so we can become aware of that which we are grateful.
Take, for instance, your tongue. When was the last time you spent one minute offering gratitude for your tongue’s ability to move food around in your mouth so that you can chew, allow you to taste, assist you in forming words or even to “wet your whistle” when needed? I am willing to bet that most of us have rarely, if ever, even thought about it. This Thanksgiving week, try enjoying one bite of your Thanksgiving meal or leftovers without moving your tongue. Try communicating without your tongue. It won’t take you long to realize that you have been remiss in fully giving thanks.
I won’t gross you out with the details, but have you ever given one moment of thought to your ability to eliminate waste from your body after over-consuming that same feast? It is amazing what we discover about life’s little simplicities when we contemplate the lack of them.
Then there is the amazing phenomenon so many of us are guilty of—we look at this magnificent body we have and in spite of all it does in service of our life, our play, our work, and our ecstasy, we criticize it for not being more toned or more buff or less wrinkled or younger or thinner. What if, just for the sake of the experiment, you were to set yourself free by looking in the mirror and offering thanks to every aspect of your body for its gift to you. While my thighs have way more cellulite and girth than I would prefer, I would far rather spend my thoughts about them sending them appreciation for walking, running, and dancing me through life.
So, this Thanksgiving Week, I invite you to practice giving thanks for all the obvious things, then graduate to all the things both large and small that you may have been completely overlooking.
Then, try offering thanks for the things that you normally judge about yourself and your life. By doing so, see if you can acknowledge how they are serving you. If you really want the “advanced” experience of gratitude, see if you can give thanks for the very things you judge in those with whom you have relationships. You may well find that the things that you resist in others are the perfect complement to you. Explore giving thanks for the events in your life that you think you could have done without. See if by giving thanks you can discover how those experiences have served you. Perhaps it is just a recognition that those experiences and people have delivered you to where you are now.
Practice mindfulness as a gratitude meditation. Explore eating (or walking, or making love, or anything) mindfully, being fully present. When your mind starts to wonder elsewhere, bring it back to the moment to the present task or experience. Your renewed awareness will serve you in experiencing true gratitude.
Intellectual Foreplay Question of the Week: Can you appreciate that which you have disliked?
Love Tip of the Week: If you can truly experience and practice gratitude for the blessings that you have while you have them, perhaps you will not need the experience of having them taken away.