What is Gratitude?

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It is not unusual that I would be thinking about, and writing about, Gratitude on this day, Thanksgiving Day, 2018. And, my thoughts and perspectives have changed about both Thanksgiving, and about Gratitude over the years. In a way, it feels somewhat strange to change my perspectives, and in another respect, it is so much more at ease to view both Gratitude, and this holiday, in a new way.

 

During the early years of my life, Thanksgiving most often was spent in Massachusetts, with my father’s family, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. There would be more than a dozen of us around the dining room table, and the smaller and younger of us at the kids’ table, which was a folding card table in the television room. No matter where I sat, there was always plenty of food, plenty of laughs, and lots of love. 

 

As I grew older, Thanksgiving changed into various ways of observing; either with my parents at our family’s home; with my partners and their families; and, eventually, with my own nuclear family. In the last few years, the holiday has mostly been spent with myself, my wife, my son, and my wife’s family.  

 

However, this year, we decided to observe it differently; to create more simplicity around it, and to do what we felt most inspired to do. This year, that was to have it be just my wife and myself, cozy in our home, cooking our own turkey, and celebrating our own internal quiet and the quiet nature of the day. That decision, for both of us, has had moments of feeling different, unusual, or like we were doing something wrong; something not expected. However, when we let go of any guilt, expectation, or should thoughts, we are in bliss and enjoying our time together.

 

I have, in addition to these changes, changed my perspective very profoundly around gratitude in the last few years. Although I have never had difficulty finding things to be grateful for in my life, I would limit it to the events, circumstances, and things that felt good; that seemed to enhance my life. And, I was not fully aware of my feelings of gratitude in my every day life. It was almost as if I would wait for gratitude to be worthy of something I was experiencing, and then it would show up. 

 

My practice has deepened to the degree that I now find Gratitude in most everything that I experience, including those times and circumstances that seem most difficult. Actually, those difficult life experiences end up being the things that I am most grateful for. In those moments of heartache, struggle and being gripped by one thing or another, I learn so much about myself, about others, and about what it is that I really want for myself. I am full of Gratitude most in those times, because I am slowly, but surely, setting myself free.

 

Of course, I don’t always remember to be grateful from day to day; and I still bear resentments, judgments, and deep insecurities at times. However, when I remember to choose Gratitude, which is more frequent all the time, I feel a sense of Surrender, Peace, Forgiveness and Love more deeply than I have ever known. And that is my saving grace; that is my freedom. 

 

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