This post is a slightly modified excerpt of Woodland Manitou: To Be on Earth.
It’s Halloween in America. If you’ve gone into any commercial establishment in the last few weeks, you’ve been bombarded with pumpkins of all sizes and materials, plastic decor of infinite variety, mountains of orange and black wrapped candy, and enough cheap costuming to clothe the entire country for a year. The holiday season is about to begin in earnest as October gives way to the season of shopping, otherwise known as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Commercialism abounds, we get sucked into the frenzy even if we don’t like to shop, and good deals take our attention from being content with what we already have. We eat too much too quickly and have more excuses than usual for why we can’t exercise. For many of us, the holidays mean putting on weight, being stressed out, spending too much money and throwing in the towel until January. Often times we are multi-tasking, working late to prepare for a few extra days off or packing frantically to visit the in-laws. We get snippy with our children, our neighbors put up lights that are too bright and we hope the time goes quickly. It doesn’t feel like a time of celebration when culture calls the shots. We forget to be mindful and live in the present. Even in this season that’s supposed to be about thanksgiving, we forget to practice gratitude.
Bill Kauth, co-author of Toolbox for a Tribe: How to Build your own Community, writes about what his group calls a “mindful” Thanksgiving:
After we have circled up, expressed our gratitude, and said what [food item] we brought, we gently agree to support each other in being silent, eating slowly — on very small plates, and even pausing to put the utensil down between bites. Imagine Thanksgiving, with all the special creations with their aroma and flavors, as a wonderful process of sustaining attention on beautiful food. Usually, after a half hour or so, a murmur starts, then it progressively gets louder, and by the time dessert is served we are in full celebration mode. But indeed we are not too full for the desserts as we have been eating very very slowly, with little bites. These are ways of coming into presence with each other. When we do this the joy becomes palpable and our value of long-term community is enhanced. It’s easy to see how conscious potluck meals and mindful holidays reflect another tribal value: generosity.
What if we all sat down with our friends, families, or in our own company and truly paid attention to the food in front of us? What if we leaned deeply into appreciation for the earth that grew it, the hands that prepared it and the company in which it was shared? What if the beginning of November, Thanksgiving day itself and the weeks that followed were about being generous in a way that is much bigger than finding the best present for everyone on our list? What if the holiday season was about cultivating community and living each moment in a way that supports what truly matters to us? What if we could eat slowly and absorb the energy of simply existing, of being nourished and of remembering that gratitude is the foundation of abundance? What if we invited gratitude in and asked it to stick around for awhile longer than usual?
I think we could be one more step into living in a more beautiful world. I think we could learn what palpable joy feels like, instead of just imagining it on the good days.
How will you put your gratitude into practice this month? Here are some ideas, should they be useful:
- Keep a simple gratitude journal – jot down three things you are grateful for each morning or evening.
- Tie expressing thanks to another habit/ritual you have: give thanks for as many things you can think of while brushing your teeth, focus on gratitude for 30 seconds after you light the candles for dinner or stoke the hearth, appreciate every item of clothing you put on in the morning or take off in the evening.
- Write a letter to someone thanking them for their presence in your life.
- Express gratitude for your physical body – yes, you can even write it a letter if you like. Pay extra attention to those body parts you might not always appreciate or even like.
- Take a walk outside and be astonished by the beauty of nature. Appreciate the ability to notice the details.
To get your mind around this concept, or to simply have another reason/avenue to practice gratitude, join us for the November Gratitude Challenge. All participants will receive a 35% off coupon for use in the Homebound Publications online store.