Being Thankful

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s a great tradition without religious overtones, with no obligations for presents. It’s just about family, friends, good food, and most importantly, about taking time to be thankful.

But you have to remember to be thankful. And not just for the luxuries or even the normal parts of your life… but just be thankful you are alive.

Anthony Robbins says, “For me, appreciation and gratitude are two of the most spiritual emotions, actively expressing through thoughts and actions.”

Here’s a story that Thich Naht Hanh likes to tell. It’s from his book “No Death, No Fear” (which I highly recommend to anyone who is facing or has gone through a loss).

Appreciating Earth

Suppose two astronauts go to the moon. When they arrive, they have an accident and find out that they have only enough oxygen for two days. There is no hope of someone coming from Earth in time to rescue them. They have only two days to live. If you asked them at that moment, “What is your deepest wish?” they would answer, “To be back home walking on the beautiful planet Earth.” That would be enough for them; they would not want anything else. They would not want to be the head of a large corporation, a big celebrity or president of the United States. They would not want anything except to be back on Earth — to be walking on Earth, enjoying every step, listening to the sounds of nature and holding the hand of their beloved while contemplating the moon.

We should live every day like people who have just been rescued from the moon. We are on Earth now, and we need to enjoy walking on this precious beautiful planet. The Zen master Lin Chi said, “The miracle is not to walk on water but to walk on the Earth.” I cherish that teaching. I enjoy just walking, even in busy places like airports and railway stations. In walking like that, with each step caressing our Mother Earth, we can inspire other people to do the same. We can enjoy every minute of our lives.

As Joni Mitchell said, “…you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

In light of these teachings, today on Thanksgiving Day, or any day, or every day, I invite you to try this exercise for deepening your appreciation of things:

  • List out things you are thankful for. You could think up this list, or write it down. I recommend writing it down at least once. Set aside some time and really think about all the things you are thankful for. Your family, your friends, your job, your home … the fact that you can see and hear and taste and smell and touch, the sunrise, the sunset…anything and everything.
    Even if you just do this part, you will deepen your appreciation for the things in your life. But if you’re adventurous, continue on.
  • With each item (or maybe the top 5 or 10) close your eyes and imagine this item. Hold it in your mind and lovingly appreciate it. Really feel the joy of having it a part of your life.
  • Now, with the same item, imagine it gone. Perhaps the person died, or moved away; perhaps you became blind, or maybe you lose your job. Dwell for some moments in the feeling that the thing that you were just cherishing is now gone forever. Capture the feelings of loss.
  • Now, again with the same item, imagine you still have it: it’s back! Again, spend a moment cherishing that this item is in your life: really appreciate it. After the feelings of relief, you may feel that your appreciation for this item has deepened after imagining it was gone. Or you may see it in a totally different perspective.

The ultimate goal, of course, is to treat everything in your life this way. To cherish each person, each item, each moment. To be thankful for each and every thing. Don’t wait until they’re gone.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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