Actively Grateful: The Power of Ongoing Thanksgiving

by Vicy Wilkinson, MA, CTLC, BCC – BBN contributor

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As we move towards the rush of the holiday season, I have found myself stopping throughout my days just to be silent for a moment and to reflect on how much I have and how grateful I am for it all.  I have always loved the spirit of Thanksgiving since “gratitude” is one of my signature strengths.  The older I become, the more I realize that Thanksgiving is a daily holiday for me.  Giving thanks and taking the time to actually feel the presence of gratitude in my heart has become an ongoing ritual for me, and for many of my friends, family members, clients, and colleagues as well.  As we become more conscious of all the people and things and experiences we have to be grateful for, we are collectively making the world a more thankful and caring place.  This thought makes me smile.

I have talked with many people, and seen a lot of posts on various social media pages, recently about how much more “real” they want the holidays to be.  I was also reading some statistics that indicated a huge percentage – like 84% – of Americans really long for holidays that are less materialistic and more centered around deepening relationships with friends and family.  I take this information as a sign about the direction our collective consciousness is shifting:  towards right motivation and right action.  I believe we are moving towards a greater compassion for each other and for the collective good.   I also believe the holidays offer us all an opportunity to create a more meaningful and caring world.

USAOne easy thing that we can do is to simply refuse to begin one holiday until the other is completed.  Thanksgiving is upon us and it can be about more than gluttonous eating and football games.  Thanksgiving can be a time of joyous reflection on past Thanksgivings, perhaps when certain family members who have now departed were with us, perhaps about now-grown-up-so-fast baby’s first holiday season, or perhaps about a time when you and yours went entirely against the grain and found yourselves celebrating life while scuba diving in Fiji.  The point is to actively observe our ability to individually and collectively feel gratitude!

Beyond that, we can also be more conscious about how we spend our money and who (and what causes) our money supports as we shop for the holidays.  For example, here in my current home area of Greenville, there are tons of amazing artists, craftsmen, and entrepreneurs who offer a range of services that help improve the quality of life of our citizens.  I’m sure your home is the same, even though in some places one might have to look a bit harder to find the local shops, entrepreneurs, and artisans.  Each of us can have a positive impact on our local economies by supporting local businesses while we’re shopping.  Meaning comes from the quality of experiences, not the quantity, and I believe this is important to keep in mind – year around.

Another easy way to experience the fullness of Thanksgiving continuously is to spend time in the silence of your own inner depths.  When you take time to get still and silent, you can uncover resources that your busy mind and schedule may prevent you from seeing as you buzz through your day from alarm clock snoozing and racing through a packed schedule to crawling into bed, exhausted, at the end of the day.  When we actively remember our reserves of Buddha-nature such as strength, kindness, presence, openness about the world, and our love and gratitude for ourselves and others, life is less difficult.  We are more worthy.  Our lives have more meaning and our friends and family experience a greater intimacy with us.

No matter one’s beliefs about the source of this inner bounty, the bounty is the same.  It’s there to help and support and lend courage to stretch our limits and light to clear away the darkness so that we can see our way, no matter the obstacles and challenges presented to us.  Taking time to discover our inner calm provides hope when the battle seems lost or pointless.  It’s there to provide solace when we need to retreat and lick our wounds.  By acknowledging its presence in our lives – in ourselves – this inner bounty fueled by gratitude can absolutely help us get more of what we want in life.

When we direct our attention towards what we already have:  from basic needs being met (clean water, meals when we’re hungry, a warm bed) to big GIGANTIC needs being met (safety, being loved, feeling connected to others), all the external needs are put into perspective.  We’re able to reassess and reprioritize.  We’re also able to focus positively on pursuing activities and opportunities that lead us in the direction of our hopes, dreams, and biggest aspirations.  It’s not just that sitting around being thankful and aware makes bags of money or a new car or the man of your dreams just materialize. Instead, spending some time acknowledging your inner bounty – and how it’s already showing up in the external world – helps align your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and motivation to act with the things you’re still seeking to add to your good life.

When you’re centered with full knowledge of your inner bounty, you might be more likely to go out on a limb and try to get that new big client to get on board with your organization.  You may find yourself better able to communicate authentically with a new love interest so that you are finally showing your real self, and realizing he or she really likes the person you really are.  You may notice little synchronistic events that lead to just the right place at just the right time to learn something or do something or participate in something that will change your whole world in an instant.  You may simply find the courage to ask for what you want – and then the even greater courage to receive it.  How focusing on our inner bounty can help us get more of what we want in life is simple:  energy follows attention and intention.

So it’s okay to be bold and sail away from the harbor because at the end of the day, our Buddha-nature, our boundless inner bounty, is always with us, no matter how far adrift in the ocean we are.   For that, we can all be actively grateful.  It is up to us to harness its power and use it to help ourselves move through the world with grace and confidence, accepting the gifts from all our experiences and sharing them with others.

Enjoy the journey, everyone!  Happy Thanksgiving!