*This post first appeared on the Web of Enlightenment.
A Meditation on Thanksgiving.
I remember when I got my first car. I wanted it so bad! It was my birthday, and my dad took me to pick it up. It was exactly what I wanted. I thought I would never find anything that made me happier than that car. I was truly grateful for my new ride, or so I thought.
Truth is, I did not even know what gratitude meant. I took care of the car, for a minute… Then, my adolescent sense of entitlement took over, and I began to treat it like it was something I deserved. I quit washing it, cleaning it out, and changing the oil. I drove it like an idiot, and on occasion was known to drinking and drive. At the end of the day I did not appreciate the car; I appreciated what I thought the car could do for me—increase my chances of picking up girls and make me more popular at school. When the newness of the car wore off, which is to say when I realized it wasn’t going to fix all my problems, I lost even the appearance of appreciation.
I was unable to appreciate the car itself. My self-centered mentality wouldn’t let me. I judged the value and worth of everything by calculating the object or person’s capacity to improve upon my situation. When I thought something would make me more comftorable or secure, I would treat it well; just as I did the car in our honeymoon phase. On the other hand if something failed to meet my expectations, or I suspected it was a detriment to the execution of my plans I quickly became either disinterested or frustrated with our relationship. Often times such relationships ended in ruin, as was the case with my first car!
Most of us never really think about what it means to “give thanks” or be grateful. I have heard some people say that gratitude is an action, or if I am grateful for something I will take care of it. I appreciate this sentiment, but I believe gratitude is deeper than that.
I believe true gratitude is actually a state of mind or an attitude, hence the suffix. I believe true gratitude is born out of love. By love I mean a spacious state of mind that simply acknowledges and appreciates my relationship with the world around me for what the world around me is, and not what I would have it be.
Love is a state of mind without a center or self, and therefore doesn’t feel threatened. Since, it is not afraid it doesn’t have to judge everything on the basis of what it stands to lose or gain in the relationship. So, love is able to simply appreciate the present moment without seeking ownership or destruction. This sort of open door policy is what I think of when I think of gratitude.
The most subtle expression of gratitude is mindfulness, or simple participation. No need to grasp or defend—simply pay attention. Life is very majestic, all we have to do is acknowledge it.
Today, when family starts pouring in, take the time to appreciate the preciousness of this very moment. Instead of just moving through the motions of Thanksgiving, practice giving thanks by being present and participating in this wonderful situation.