Being Thankful for Everything That Is Going More than All Right
I love the practice – being thankful for everything that is going more than all right. I learned it from James Baraz, my meditation teacher of 20 years, who used the phrase in his Conversations on Practices for Recovering Resilience. Gratitude has been a pillar of James’s teaching for 40 years, including teaching his 89-year old mother Selma to add the phrase to every twinge of gripe or complaint, “And my life is truly very blessed.” The practice changed her life, and the energy of everyone around her. [See the most delightful YouTube in the world: Selma recounts her experience with her typical Jewish humor: How My Son Ruined My Life.]
Today is Thanksgiving in America, a holiday of families and friends gathering in gratitude for the blessings in their lives, including belonging in each other’s lives. Especially poignant this year in the Northern California corner of the world I live in. The ongoing wildfires have destroyed millions of acres, thousands of homes and businesses, and taken over a thousand lives. The courage to find blessings in the midst of such devastation is the deep courage of the human spirit that finds hope and meaning in even the most painful of circumstances. With prayers of compassion going out to people experiencing devastation anywhere in the world at this moment. Staying open to goodness and sorrow in the same moment. In the immortal words of American poet Jack Gilbert:
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight…. We must have the stubbornness
to accept our gladness
in the ruthless furnace of this world.
So we practice gratitude not in spite of what’s happening but because of what’s happening.
James’s all-time favorite quote about gratitude is from the ancient Roman statesman and philosopher, Marcus Tullius Cicero: Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
In that spirit, wisdom to sustain the practice of giving thanks from wise elders who have been practicing throughout the ages:
If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.
– Meister Eckhart
O lord that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.
– William Shakespeare
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
– Melody Beattie
To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.
– Johannes A. Gaertner
Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.
Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.
God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?”
– William A. Ward
Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.
– W.T. Purkiser
Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude.
– E.P. Powell
Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day.
– Robert Caspar Lintner
Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.
– W.J. Cameron
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
– John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.
– Theodore Roosevelt
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food. For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Dear Lord, we beg but one boon more:
Peace in the hearts of all men living,
Peace in the whole world this Thanksgiving.
– Joseph Auslander