Tomorrow we will be doing last minute preparations, laughing with family and gluttonizing over tryptophan-laced fowl and a host of other edibles that take us straight to the couch. It is easy to be distracted by all of the self-indulgence of the day which is why today is a perfect time – pre-mayhem – to pause and reflect.
Cicero, the great Roman philosopher, statesman and humanist (among other things) said:
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
What does this mean? Without gratitude – a true appreciation for the people around us who we love, experiences and blessings – there is no engine that fuels our desire to help each other and do good. It is a state of being that staves off self-pity and the desire to receive for the self alone over sharing.
For those who can’t find motivation to do good works for the sake of good alone, it appears to be a law of the universe that those who are grateful for the abundance around them receive more. The reward system in the universe recognizes sincere gratitude. Let’s say a nervous 17 year old brings flowers to his recent crush. Barely batting an eye she extends her arm to the right and hands them to her mother asking her to put them in water. Do you think this boy will give her flowers again? No. The circuitry of giving was not complete. She could not receive them – and in many cases learning how to receive love and blessings is just as important if not more important than the giving. Sometimes to receive can mean humbling ourselves and giving the other person who wants to help our honor and eliminating our Ego. To receive requires acknowledgement, and genuine appreciation of what the other person is offering. On a macrocosmic level, when we are sincerely attuned to and aware of all of the blessed situations (big and small) and people who cross our paths extending their love or perhaps a message we needed to hear, then the Universe responds in kind by bestowing more upon us. It is as if the powers that be say, “This person gets it and is connected. Give them more.”
By the same token, if we approach life as the girl who throws the flowers in the vase we are sending a message to the universe that we don’t value what is being given to us. So why should it be duplicated or augmented? When we are humbled by every small fortune or opportunity that comes to us, we are in essence saying we don’t take any of life for granted, we don’t expect the rain to fall or our heart to beat in time or any of it ; and we recognize that everything that comes to us is a grace. Therefore we feel compelled to complete the circuitry by graciously receiving. When one has a deep gratitude it works like a jet propellor to inspire one to want to give in all directions so that others can experience the wonder of gratitude we are experiencing.
There are times I am in an automatic state of awe and gratitude. At other times I am made aware of someone else’s challenges, hardships or trauma and I am jolted awake. Then I remember that we are not guaranteed the next beautiful sunrise, that the airplane wheels are not guaranteed to touch the landing strip, that we are not always guaranteed the opportunity to say it’s sorry before it’s too late, that we will always be able to hear the laugh of a baby, that we can see the majesty of the ocean, that our parents and children will stick around on our time-clock, or that we will make it across to the other side of the street – safely and intact. When one thinks about the thousands-fold blessings around us, it is impossible to not want to spread more of what we are receiving inasmuch as we are capable.
This Thanksgiving, take a moment to pause and self-reflect thanking your ancestors who came before you and who toiled and struggled as you are standing on their shoulders now. Let’s not make tomorrow about the food coma and sugar crashes, but about laughter and appreciation and the quiet moment following when we feel our beating pulse, look around and fully register what a miracle it is that we are all here breathing and standing on firm ground – and that we all have so much.