As Thanksgiving approaches, many wonder whether the spirit of the holiday has faded. Faced with the stress of preparations and the inclination for indulgence, we might forget why we gathered in the first place.
In constant pursuit of the things we don’t have, we often take for granted the things we do have. Take a few minutes to rediscover the riches in your life. A little contemplation can help you cherish your guests and the occasion wholeheartedly to make your celebration more meaningful.
Find the silver lining
While it is easy to be grateful for the good things, it is worth considering how the low points in life serve to raise us up. A slight shift in perspective may reveal that some of the most valuable lessons we have learned have come from experiencing hardship. For instance:
- Sickness reminds us to treasure our health and take care of our bodies.
- Loss of a loved one prompts us to cherish each moment spent with them.
- Hunger teaches us to value the food on our table.
- Big mistakes are seldom repeated.
- By getting lost, we learn to find the way.
Every time we experience a type of loss, we are reminded that nothing on Earth is eternal. Appreciating what we have in each moment allows us to tune into the course of nature while cultivating one of the most precious human qualities: a grateful heart.
Blessings in disguise
Life is full of conflicts. After all, everyone is different, and reaching a middle ground is not always easy. Disagreements or misunderstandings inflict a kind of psychological pain that can prey on our minds for days on end.
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Yet many spiritual teachings have instructed us to remain kind, especially when we are wronged or treated unfairly. In fact, we should be grateful. Why?
- Criticism gives us the opportunity to evaluate our flaws.
- Disagreements provide an opportunity to consider other perspectives.
- Troublesome people help us cultivate patience.
- Long-winded people enable us to practice our listening skills.
- Being hurt by unkind words makes us mindful of what we say.
Once you begin to see conflicts in a different light, you will realize that each of them is a blessing in disguise.
The ability to perceive beauty
“The best things in life are free” is not just the name of a hokey old song remixed in the 90s to become an R&B hit; it is an absolute truth. Yet precisely because they are free, it is easy to take them for granted. Take the ability to experience the world through our senses for example, and remember to be grateful that you can:
- See the countless beautiful images that are presented before us every day.
- Hear the soothing and delightful sounds of nature, or a child’s laughter.
- Smell the delicate sweetness of flowers and the enticing aromas of food.
- Savor the full range of flavors that complete a balanced meal.
- Give and receive warm hugs and genuine smiles.
The fortune of being human
Among all the species on Earth, we humans are the most fortunate. Just as there is suffering in life, there is also breathtaking beauty and magic. Their manifestation in everyday life is easy to discern once we start paying attention. Start by noticing:
- The quiet efforts of selfless people who make the world a better place.
- The generation of beauty through words in the gift of language.
- The inspiration that comes from listening to good music.
- The grand satisfaction of solving a challenging puzzle.
- The opportunity to transcend this world through spiritual practice.
There are countless reasons to be grateful on Thanksgiving, and every day. If counting your blessings doesn’t come naturally to you, try keeping a gratitude journal. This will not only serve as a tool for reflection, but also remind you of the good times when you’re going through the bad.
Needless to say, cultivating gratitude requires effort and practice. Start today, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!