The most American of holidays, it avoids the usual religious connotations of nearly all the others. It is the holiday most energetically embraced by immigrants from all cultures since the inception of this country. Strangely, it did not become a holiday until so declared by Abraham Lincoln and only arrived at its present location on the calendar by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Of course it is about being grateful. But do we truly ponder the power of gratitude to affect changes in how we view our lives? It seems to be more natural to see problems and difficulties in our day to day lives. Whether these are connected to our jobs, our families, our friends, our careers, our self-image, the insanity of the world: it is usually negative and rather painful thoughts that swirl around the caverns of our minds.
Perhaps evolutionary biology is to blame. [We do enjoy blaming everything outside of ourselves for our feelings.] Our ancestors, the ones that worried the most, were likely to have survived a variety of enviornmental insults. Perhaps the worrier within made certain that they have enough food, clothing, protection before they ventured out of the cave. Perhaps they worried more about marauding saber-tooths and unsavory tribes and were, thefore, extra cautious. It made sense to see the darkness rather than the light. It may have helped our ancestors to see the glass [or clay bowl] half empty.
Seeking that to which we are grateful requires an active choice. It may not be in our nature, but we are not creatures driven by nature alone. Our greatest source for transformation is our ability to make choices. To chose to be grateful brings an astonishing array of gifts.
We find that we all have much to be grateful for–including the ability to make choices. I turn once again to Victor Frankl’s remarkable study of fellow Holocaust survivors–MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING. Finding beauty, wonder, meaning in the slightest glint of light or budding branch was enough motivation for some to push on and survive.
Our own journey in this incarnation should be regarded with much gratitude. We are all the product of courageous souls. They entered sacred contracts, chose to incarnate in order to face the extraordinary challenges of daily living. The goal was to seek to learn and grow from such encounters with reality. The choice to confront the pain of living with the response of love and equanimity is to leap ahead in their spiritual evolution.
No soul learn unless the lesson is challenging. We are rarely aware of this deep truth. We recoil from the pain of living and fail to realize how much suffering we can reduce by our responses.
So, not only should we seek the beauty and love that surrounds us and acknowledge it, but embrace the pain as well. It, too, is a gift for which we should be grateful.