This week in the US we have celebrated Thanksgiving, our annual holiday where we gather together with family and friends to share a meal, and to express our thanks for each other and all that is good in our lives.
At least that is the theory, but this year has of course been strange. Many people have been unable to meet or have taken the prudent step of not gathering. For some people loss of loved ones, health or livelihood has overshadowed what would traditionally be a joyous time. For many others just the sheer frustration of isolation has made this a difficult time.
We are taught that grasping and aversion are the root of our unhappiness. These really just mean holding on to the wish for things to be other than they are. And right now it is so easy to fall in to the trap of focusing so much on our desire for things to be different that we forget to be happy. The antidote to grasping and aversion is gratitude, because along with gratitude comes a liberating acceptance for how things are - even the things we don't like.
We often think of gratitude in a transactional way - Something good happened so I am grateful for that. This is fine as far as it goes, but what about when that thing goes away, or things are not so good? Do we let go of our gratitude (and so our happiness) then?
We all start on our gratitude journey by being thankful for the benefits and blessings we experience. We know that when we are others fail to be grateful for what we have we become bitter. We should all be grateful for the positives in our lives, and express that to others. The harder part is to allow this experience of gratitude to pervade our whole life, even when things are not as we wish.
There are many things that I am grateful for, and I am grateful specifically for those of you who read this weekly letter. I would like to encourage us all to challenge ourselves beyond mere transactional gratitude - dependent on good things happening - to a deeper sense of gratitude that grounds our being.
I have linked below a fully guided meditation on unconditional gratitude. You are welcome to listen any time, but a few of us have committed to press 'play' together at 7pm PT on Sunday 29th of November. You are welcome to join us then if you wish.
Photo by Wilhelm Gunkel on Unsplash
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