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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gratitude - The Heart of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving.  A time of giving thanks to all that is good in our lives.  We sit down with family and friends and celebrate the bounty of our lives with food, drink, friendship, and love.  For one day we are asked to set aside all the things that trouble us - whether it be financial struggles, strained relationships, or even the loss of a part of our lives we so deeply cherished.  Throughout the whole year we may have struggled with the changes life brings, and the new life is still in its nascent state, ready to emerge, but not yet, not now.  Seeds have been planted, and the shoots are starting to sprout, but Nature's rhythms can not be rushed, there is a harmony to all that is, to all that was and to all that will be.  This year, for many of us, has been a year of transition.  The old has passed away, never to return again, old structures have collapsed, relationships have ended, and in the midst of these great turmoils, when the birthing of the new can have its own spasms and convulsions, its setbacks and frustrations, it takes great courage to find the good in one's own life.  To remember that we are not held down by the chains of our past but by our own choosing.  The past is gone.  It can hurt us no more but in our minds.  It no longer exists.  And yet, this bridge to the new dawn can seem drawn out and endless, we long for what was lost because the future scares us, it is the infinite unknown, and without a firm faith in ourselves to overcome any challenge which might come our way, we might lose hope of ever breaking free into the new lives that are just waiting for us on the other end of this period of transformation.  The signs are there though, and with a firm conviction and determined resolve to resurrect our lives from whatever challenges us to become more than we were before, an attitude of endless gratitude accelerates the creative forces in this world to bring us to where we need to be next on this journey of our lives.  Thanksgiving is a time to reflect back on the times we had with those we love, to share in the love, bounty, and lives of those we are surrounded with at present, and be grateful for the life we do have.  Our lives are gifts given to us by our Creator, and with a grateful attitude, we are reminded how wonderful life really is when we set aside the issues that plague our minds.

I am grateful for all that has happened to me, even the "bad" stuff.  I couldn't say this a few months ago, my mind was so tormented and weighed down by my attachments to past memories, beliefs, experiences, and people, but I've come to a place where I've learned to accept everything, and know that everything has happened for my own good, I just had to find it.  And it wasn't easy.  I've spent most of the year turning my thoughts inward and finding myself.  Inner spiritual work is the hardest work to be done because it requires an unflinching effort to truly understand and 'know thyself' without being defined by society or others who might want to define you a certain way.  It's about taking a stand for your true self.  Who do I want to be, not who my family wants me to be, or my lover, or my friends, or anyone else whose influence forced us to be fragmented people living up to their expectations.  The greatest gift you could ever give to yourself is to excavate the inner workings of your inner world and discover who you really are and by discovering who you really are, you connect to your Source, the life force within you and within everything you see, and then you begin to live your life on purpose, aligned with the truth in you, and suddenly creativity, love, beauty, and abundance begin to flourish.  One of the keys to this renaissance in anyone's life is gratitude.  Gratitude brings us in closer alignment with the all creative force of the universe, and we learn to see and understand how much good there is in our own lives to be grateful for.  By being grateful for all that happens in our lives, by being grateful for our lives, the universe responds with appreciation, and radiates back to you what you have elected to radiate outward.  Grateful thoughts, words, and deeds, attract only good into our lives, because we refuse to be held down by what our situations or circumstances may be.  Instead, we find and appreciate the good that is there, that will draw us out of our predicaments, and lead us to where we want to be, in full appreciation for who we are, in love with ourselves, and in love with all of life.  Gratitude is key to reaching your highest goals and aspirations, for it is impossible to feel stressed and unhappy about oneself or angry and resentful of others if one is in a constant state of appreciation.

There was an exercise I did earlier this year which required me to find 5 things every day for which I was grateful for, and 3 things for which I was grateful for not.  Suffice it to say, I learned through my daily writings of how much there is in my life to be thankful for; how beautiful, how rich, and wonderful my life truly is.  How blessed it is.  Sometimes we can't see it when the storm clouds are raining heavily on our personal journeys and life looks hopeless and grim.  But I venture to say, those times are sent to us to wake us up to the beauty that is us.  Grief, pain, suffering of any kind is an opportunity to let go of something that no longer defines us, we are called to grow and expand ourselves to new horizons, and it is our attachments to that which was and not what is that keeps us in the prison house of pain.  By being grateful we neutralize the effects of these painful experiences, allow space to open up within our hearts, and then God comes in and heals our wounds.  Gratitude keeps us in constant contact with God, and as a consequence, we naturally are kinder and gentler to all those who enter and leave our lives.  Soon we learn we are not defined by what happens to us, because when we touch the inner source of our beingness, we know nothing outside of us can affect or change the gratitude we have for the life we live right now, in this moment.  Good and bad things happen to us all, it's a part of life, and to be grateful for all that happens, no matter what, keeps us in constant contact with the inner joy, love, and peace that is our true eternal nature.

What am I grateful for at this time of thanksgiving?  I'm grateful for the freedom to walk down to the grocery store and buy food whenever I want or need.  I'm grateful for running water in my apartment.  I'm grateful for the roof over my head, clothes on my body, and food in the refrigerator.  I'm grateful for the ability to read and write.   I'm grateful for the air I breathe.  I'm grateful for my parents falling in love with each other and out of their love, I was born and given life.  I'm grateful for all the life lessons my parents have taught me throughout the years and the values, principles, and ethics they imparted to me.  I'm grateful for the the love I share with my parents, my siblings, my extended family, my friends and acquaintances.  I'm grateful for this country and the freedoms I have.  I'm grateful for the opportunity granted in this country to stretch, grow, and challenge myself to become all that I am capable of becoming.  I'm grateful for a bed to sleep in at night.  I'm grateful for a job that encourages and supports my artistic aspirations.  I'm grateful for the wonderful people I work for and work with.  I'm grateful for the elephant theater company, my artistic home.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to write this blog and speak the things that are on my mind and have a forum to discuss important topics.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to help those who suffer from PTSD and other traumas through the spiritual counseling I've been trained to do and help them to find their joy and freedom once again.  I'm grateful for the birds that sing when I wake up in the morning.  I'm grateful for the sun, the sky, the clouds, the mountains, the ocean.  I'm grateful for just being me, without feeling the need to please or seek validation or approval from another human being.  I'm grateful  for the realization that I am enough.  I'm grateful for the angel God sent me who helped me to transform my life.  I'm grateful for my eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin, muscles, and bones that make up my body.  I'm grateful for my health, physical fitness, and vitality.  I'm grateful for my mind, my heart, and my soul.  I'm eternally grateful to God for creating me and giving me life.                            

I could go on and on, it's amazing really what we are grateful for if we could only stop the incessant noise of the voices going on inside of our heads.  Now, what am I grateful for not being/doing/having etc.?  I'm grateful for not fighting in a war.  I'm grateful for not living in abject poverty in Afghanistan, India, or Southeast Asia.  I'm grateful for not being a child caught in the child-sex slave trade.  I'm grateful for not being a slave, in any form.  I'm grateful for not being paralyzed and in a wheelchair.  I'm grateful for not being sick.  I'm grateful for not having to live with and die of cancer.  I'm grateful for not being trapped in a hole several miles down under the ground.  I'm grateful for not being dragged behind a car.  I'm grateful for not being in a hopeless situation.  I'm grateful for not being at the mercy of someone else's opinion or expectation of me.  I'm grateful for not being attached to negative people, experiences, memories, or thoughts anymore.  I'm grateful for not being tortured.  I'm grateful for not being afraid to face my truth.  I'm grateful for not being chained to the past anymore.  I'm grateful for not living in sin, guilt, shame, or blame.  I'm grateful for not being ruled and controlled by my anger and my ego.  I'm grateful for not being blind or deaf or mentally handicapped or deformed.  I'm grateful for not being homeless.  I am grateful for not being cruel.  I'm grateful  for not being hunted down by government forces.  I'm grateful for not being in Syria, or Israel, or Gaza, smack in the middle of a war zone.  I'm grateful for not being in a dysfunctional co-dependent relationship.  I'm grateful for not being ugly or unattractive.  I'm grateful for not wasting my talents and gifts.  I'm grateful for not being separated from the source of my life anymore.  I'm grateful for not having a broken spirit.  I'm grateful for not losing my love for myself and for my life.

Give this a try during this time of giving thanks to all that's good in our lives.  Spend 5 minutes for the next thirty days, get a journal and write down every day 5 things for which you are grateful for and 3 things for which you are grateful for not.  Within days, you should feel a shift inside where your life feels more blessed and beautiful, and not so weighed down by the issues and problems affecting you.  With the sense of lightness and gratitude that comes with doing this exercise, the problems which you do have will not appear as formidable as they once appeared, and you might actually find the solutions to them hiding behind your habitual negative thought patterns.  Besides that, a inner sense of joy starts to kindle inside and waken you to the beauty that is your life.  Share your thoughts if you feel compelled.  It would be fantastic if people reading this blog shared what they were grateful for and what they were grateful for not.  Post them in the comments section.  I would love to know.  Gratitude is contagious.  We get a larger sense of the immense beauty of life when we share our thoughts and feelings about what we are thankful for, it unites us in love and in all that is good, and it keeps life in a proper perspective.

Many blessings to all of you on this Thanksgiving Day.