Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Giving Thanks Means Saying Yes to Life

"Blue Skies and Cool Breezes"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

As the Thanksgiving holiday comes around this year, I find that I am especially thankful. Our entire family is here with us (including our grand babies from back east), everyone seems to be doing well, we are all in good health and on top if it all, the weather here in the desert at this time of year is about as beautiful as anywhere in the country – my list of reasons to be thankful goes on and on.

Most people “give thanks” for the “good stuff” that comes along in life. As they sit around a holiday table this year, many will identify why they are thankful, giving a nod to all that may have gone well during the year -  good health, a nice family, a good job, a nice house, money in the bank, a good grade on the paper.  The fact is, however, that much of this very impermanent and imperfect life doesn’t always turn out all that well and often doesn’t come anywhere near to our hoped-for plans. Over this past year, people got sick or had an accident, a house burnt down, a relationship ruptured, a job was lost. How do you give thanks for this?

Furthermore, while the events of everyday life may not be all that “bad” for most of us, our routine lives may be somewhat boring - doing the laundry or the grocery shopping or sitting all day at a computer at work are hardly the kinds of things people think about when Thanksgiving comes around and they recount the reasons for which they are especially thankful

And yet, if we look at “thanksgiving” through a different lens, we can all be “thankful” for everything at all times. As I see it, giving thanks is more about embracing life as it happens rather than putting a seal of approval on events that turned out the way we wanted them to happen.

I think St. Paul gives some pretty good advice in one of his epistles when he says:

Be thankful in all the circumstances of life.

The truth is that very little if anything in life is under our control. Most of the time life simply happens, it comes to us, and very often it happens far differently than we might have wanted or expected. If “giving thanks” means being grateful for those good (or exciting) things that happen according to our plan, it’s no wonder that we might have a hard time being thankful for those times when we hit a dry place in life or when our everyday ordinary routine is somewhat boring. 

As I see it, even sickness, loss, grief and pain have a way of making me more vulnerable and open to others – our dry places are often the most fruitful. Furthermore, when I open my mind and heart to life as it comes to me, I am always surprised at what can happen and nothing is boring or routine.  The simple act of sitting quietly in my garden on an early-winter morning in the desert turns into an awesome experience of mystery and transcendence and the smile of a baby sitting at the table turns into the face of God.

We all have plenty of reasons for giving thanks. We can be thankful in all circumstances of life.

Eckhart Tolle put it this way:

Always say yes to the present moment.
Say yes to life and see how suddenly it starts working for you 
rather than against you.

Giving thanks means saying “yes” to life.

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