Thanksgiving is now three days gone, and many of us are gearing up for the busy Christmas season. What better time to pause and reflect on the meaning of this just~past holiday.
Gratitude. We know it as a core value of all spiritual traditions. Most of us have also heard of the latest research demonstrating its many benefits to physical and emotional health. And yet, a living gratitude, one that infuses our day to day lives, often eludes us. I wonder, could we find a fresh approach to thankfulness that would serve us better?
For guidance, I turn to the Tarot. I choose the round Motherpeace deck, co~created by Vicki Noble and Karen Vogel. I sit on my cushion, hold the cards for a few moments, and then begin moving them from hand to hand in a gentle shuffle. I spread the cards face~down in an arc in front of me, and move my left hand lightly over them, sensing the card that draws me to it. And, in fact, one does seem a bit more insistent than the others. I turn it over to find this image~~
I smile as an answer already begins to form. I gaze at this woman soaking in a natural spring, healing water bubbling from deep within the Earth itself. I see the rocks of various shapes enclosing the pool, and the flowers floating on the water's surface. I note the woman's face turning slightly upward, eyes closed, as she welcomes the starlight streaming down.
Why has this card beckoned? What might this image have to teach us about gratitude? I sense the answer in the woman's face. Fully receiving the gifts of healing water and starlight, there is no doubt that gratitude radiates from her in waves. She does not need to remember to be thankful. It is not a technique practiced or something to be checked off a to~do list. No, it flows easily and naturally from gifts that have saturated her core.
Perhaps we've been going about this gratitude thing all wrong. Maybe, just maybe, the trick is to thoroughly receive the gifts in the first place, to let them root deeply inside us. Then, gratitude will take care of itself. Like the woman in The Star, if we open to the starlight and healing waters of our lives~~no more gifts half~received on the fly, but ones welcomed deeply into our cell tissue~~would not thankfulness happen naturally?
And a thankful heart changes everything~~how we perceive the world, the choices we make, our reactions to the challenges that come our way. Living in appreciation transforms, and our actions and our very presence more readily become gifts to others. Having been filled, we automatically give back.
And that's not all. As our hearts become more open and responsive, our ingrained sense of separation begins to diminish. Our discriminative minds distinguish between giver and receiver. When receiving elicits a response that is of benefit to others, those divisions begin to blur. Everything is revealed as part of a grand flow. All is blessing, the receiving and the giving, the breathing in and the breathing out.
And as we grow in this awareness, we will no longer need a special day once a year to be thankful. Each moment will be received~~and given back~~as sacrament.
For a webpage that details the benefits of gratitude backed up by research, click here.