Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Thanksgiving in the East ...

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life
is thank you, it will be enough.
Meister Eckhart

I'm off to Toronto in the early hours of Thursday morning to speak at the ATSS conference and then I will be driving down to Kingston to spend Thanksgiving with dear friends there.

I've been thinking about Thanksgiving and "gratitude" over the past week and was surprised to find an echo of my thoughts in an article in the Winter 2009 newsletter of the Callanish Society.

(Callanish is a wonderful nonprofit organization, worthy of your support, that provides retreats for people living with cancer and their families. A number of years ago my best friend, Linda Vick, attended one of their retreats before dying of lung cancer. It changed her life and touched many of us through her. I still have the journal she kept during her week's retreat - a treasured gift - and I read it from time to time when I need a reminder of what matters most in life.)

Janie Brown, Executive Director of Callinish, wrote these words in the Winter newsletter -

Many of us need to work at feeling grateful when life turns around on us.
A good friend of mine, Roger Hyodo, writes about thankfulness. He speaks about
two kinds of gratitude. The first is one that we cultivate based on our preferences,
beliefs, and values. We like something, we feel grateful. We don't like something,
we feel ungrateful. Our state of internal thankfulness is dependent on the ups and
downs of our lives. There are some people who tell us that we should see
everything as a gift, and that every experience that arrives is meant to be.
This is all very well, but what we cannot do is will ourselves to be grateful. It doesn't
work. All we do then is bypass our sadness, anger and regret, and send those feelings underground. At Callanish we offer a space for people with cancer to have their feelings, to honour the dark emotions by giving voice to them. In time, and it takes time,
I hear people speak not of cancer as a gift, but of life as a precious commodity.
Even in the midst of fiercely rejecting cancer, people can become clear that
there are things worthy of thanks.

The second form of gratitude Rodger speaks of is one that we may sense as a
"field" of thankfulness. I have experienced this many times in our circles at Callanish,
as well as in many other moments of my life. When we deliberately create certain conditions in our living, we become aware of this underling ever-present
quality of thankfulness.
Some of the conditions at Callanish are beauty, silence, real conversation, music,
art and spontaniety. We find ourselves risking expression to speak what is
true for us. In this kind of space, the heart seems to unabashedly open in response to
another's honesty, and we feel thankful. It feels like this thankfulness moves
effortlessly among us.

Perhaps, then, in these times of great uncertainty in our lives, it is up to all of us
to create these conditions for ourselves and each other ... whereby we can touch into
a genuine feeling of gratitude for the lives we are living.
When I hear someone express thanks amidst a life of great struggle, it humbles me to
look at my own life through a different lens. With that view, how could I not say,
"Thank you".

So, for Linda and Derrick and Barry and Mom and Dad and Christopher who, through times of great struggle, taught me about thankfulness, beauty, silence, real conversation, music, art, spontaneity, and mostly, love - I, too, say, "Thank you".

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