‘Tis the season…no, not THAT season (yet!)… I’m talking about the season of ’28 Days of People Being Grateful on FB’ (while the other 337 days are spent complaining), elastic waistbands, inflated travel prices and mass turkey-cide.
But also – and how I prefer to look at it – A time for a change of season that brings cooler temps (which for me, living in the South, is a welcome thing indeed), making it actually inviting to curl up inside and draw or read. Grey days aren’t dreaded in my book – actually kind of the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, I adore light, sun, warmth. But rain and grey has always been soothing to me. When I was a child, if it was sunny, I was pressed to go outside, be loud, ‘have fun’. I often just wanted to draw and read. On rainy grey days, it wasn’t questioned; my time was my own. It felt like a deep rush of air to the lungs after breathing shallow for too long, and I still often get that feeling on a dreary day. (Unless I have to drive around in it, in which case- yep, it sucks.)
And of course, a time when everyone takes just a little more time to feel grateful. We hear it ALL the time ‘gratitude heals’, ‘you should be grateful’… And sometimes it’s just hard to remember. Thanksgiving Season makes it simpler… it’s built right in to our daily thoughts. It’s one great big, national gratitude adjustment.
At different times in my life, I’ve gone through various ‘gratitude exercises’. Some were simple, some were downright painful- but every time, something magic happens when I put in even just a little effort. It’s palpable, but difficult to describe. That part of me that has become hardened with time, experience, heartache, disappointment, loss, fear… it softens up. The load feels lighter, and I’m pretty sure I’m nicer to be around, too.
This is not a new idea, of course, none of this is. The importance of gratitude is a cornerstone of teachings from most world religions, countless philosophers, and even Oprah (hey, if Oprah says it… ). For me, some of the best connection to gratitude I’ve been able to tap into that has really altered my perspective, my work, my relationships and my life in general comes from a Shambhala teacher named Pema Chodron. If you’ve never read any of her work, check it out sometime. She’s easy to find. She’s a Westerner writing about traditionally Eastern concepts, and therefore her (often humorous) presentation of these sometimes esoteric concepts is simple and accessible.
One of my favorite titles of hers is Start Where You Are. Kind of nice, isn’t it? What better place to start? No special equipment required, everything you need, you have already. An exercise from Start Where You Are:
“… I work on melting that hardness by generating more warmth, more open heart. A good way for any of us to do this is to think of a person toward whom we feel appreciation or love or gratitude. In other words, we connect with the warmth that we already have. If we can’t think of a person, we can think of a pet, or even a plant. Sometimes we have to search a bit. But as Trungpa Rinpoche used to say, Everybody loves something. Even if it’s just tortillas. The point is to touch in to the good heart that we already have and nurture it.” ~Pema Chodron
(You may be able to guess from my illustration above that often I start with the animal kingdom, when people seem hard. :-))
Hey, I’m not saying I have this thing figured out… some days are more like this for me. (Not a terrific quality vid, but one of my favorite moments from him. Louis CK= brilliance.)
So, why does Thanksgiving rock more than Christmas? How dare I suggest such a thing?? It’s all that stuff I just mentioned. Because in my (glass-half-full tendencies) mind, it’s one of the few holidays that makes us want to be better people- even if it’s for 28 days on FB, or for one day, or even just during that one, ridiculously overwrought meal.
All that’s truly required for Thanksgiving is just that- giving of thanks. And it’s usually suggested said thanks be directed towards those closest to us… a lovely idea indeed. Whether it’s easy or challenging for us, it softens that hardened shell that isolates us as connected beings, even if just a little bit, for just a moment.
It’s one nice deep breath before the Big Daddy of all Holidays truly comes barreling in the door for reals (though all retailers would love us to extend our mass consumption well before this holiday- another rant for another time). I raise my fist in defiance and solidarity: Let us not forget the simple grace that is Thanksgiving! Christmas: WAIT YOUR TURN. We humans need our gratitude.
So please know that, when I say that I am thankful for YOU… whether you are someone close to me in ‘real life’, or whether it’s simply because you took a moment of precious time to look at my little illustration and check out my ramblings… I mean it. I really am. <3
(See those icons below? Feel free to share… and if you want to e-share the Thankful Buns, go ahead! If possible link it back to me somehow. Link for prints below image!)