I'm not a grinch about Thanksgiving. I enjoy this holiday.
My wife just finished making an apple pie. Soon I'll prepare our main dish, a vegetarian Trader Joe's Turkey-Less Stuffed Roast, which requires all of my cooking skills: heating the oven to 375, basting the roast, and cooking it for 45 minutes.
Whew! I feel exhausted already.
I'm also totally fine with feeling thankful. I just have a different view about what thankfulness means. Last night I saw people interviewed on the evening news about what they're thankful for. Family. Friends. Having a job. That sort of thing.
OK. Totally understandable. Around millions of dinner tables today, there will be similar talk of what everybody is thankful for.
But here's my problem with singling out certain aspects of life for a blue ribbon thankfulness award. This leaves out most of what we experience each day.
I'm a big fan of mindfulness, even though I often suck at it.
Basically this is non-judgmental awareness of the present moment, accepting whatever lies within and without ourselves. If we're angry, we know we're angry. If we're stuck in traffic, we know we're stuck in traffic.
We don't push what's happening away. We embrace the good and bad, the beautiful and ugly, the pleasurable and painful.
This doesn't mean fatalism. We still try to fix things, improve our condition, help others in need, fight injustice. Mindfulness just leads us to a understanding that we've got to accept what is before we can move toward what can be.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that encourages positivity. Nothing wrong with that. But with all the pressure to have an absolutely wonderful Thanksgiving, maybe some people would resonate with this perspective:
Be thankful for nothing. Which means, everything.
I'll explain why I like this notion. In my everyday life, I'm simply living my life. I don't divide my life into what I'm thankful for, and what I'm not thankful for. I do say "thank you" occasionally, but that's different from putting things in thankful and not thankful buckets.
I have some health problems. I deal with those. I guess I'm thankful that I'm alive, since being dead would be worse than having those problems (though it would eliminate them). But that doesn't come to mind as I go about my day.
Our dog usually is a pleasure to have around, but sometimes she can be annoying. Ditto with my wife. The same is true of me. I'm sure our dog gets annoyed with me calling her when she's engrossed in hunting mice or moles. And I know my wife finds me annoying at times.
Such is the nature of life. It's a whole, not a bunch of separable things.
If I could eliminate everything unpleasant about life, it wouldn't be life anymore. Living is a combination of what we like and don't like, of pleasure and pain, of happiness and sadness. Living life mindfully means being aware of everything, not just the part of life we'd say we're thankful for if someone asked.
I love our property, ten natural acres in rural south Salem. Our house is surrounded by large trees. They're beautiful. They're also annoying when they drop leaves, branches, and needles where we don't want them.
But I can't separate what I like about the trees from what I don't like. They're just trees, doing their tree thing. I have to accept everything about the trees. That means not thinking of them as something I'm thankful for, because they're a combination of annoying and pleasurable -- as is life as a whole.
I both like and dislike dealing with leaves.
So rather than being thankful about some aspects of the trees, and not thankful about other aspects, I prefer to be thankful for nothing particular about them, which enables me to be thankful for everything about them -- though the whole notion of thankfulness then becomes irrelevant.
This afternoon I did what I usually do on Thanksgiving: pick leaves out of bushes in our yard, since by now almost all of the leaves have fallen and been blown into the brush, so I'm into the refined part of dealing with the leaves.
So there the leaves are, something to be dealt with, but not something I classify as "thankful" or "not thankful." They're simply a chore, which is quite pleasant on a dry fairly warm day like today.
And when I looked around the back of this bush, I saw flowers blooming that I hadn't noticed before. Again, this wasn't something I was thankful or not thankful for. It was simply part of what I was doing.
Life is just what life is. We can try to categorize and divide life in a myriad of ways, but in the end, our life is a whole.
Which is how I look upon thankfulness.
When we're thankful for nothing in particular, the door is opened to being thankful for everything -- even though "thankful" ceases to be a word pointing to something special, since all of life becomes special.
Very zen. Very nice.
Posted by: Xtra | November 25, 2021 at 11:54 PM
Yes, this has an aspect of Zen about it – which I find quite refreshing. I appreciate some of the science-based understanding but sometimes, without the feeling/human side of life, they can hang a bit heavy. That’s not to say that intellectual understanding is not relevant – both seem to be part of a balanced approach to our inquiries.
As an environmentalist/naturalist and with a past that involved an academic approach, it gave me many wonderful insights into the ‘workings’ of nature. These days, on my walks, along with this understanding of the connections linking all of the natural world, there has developed an attitude of acknowledging everything. I guess this is linked to being thankful but is more to do with recognizing that everything else is no less valid than I am and deserves to be known as such.
Posted by: Ron E. | November 26, 2021 at 03:38 AM
Be thankful for nothing. Which means, everything
Accept everything and be thankful for realising the illusionary religious cults and the Fake babas which intentionally set off to delude our minds and to ruin our lives.
Gurinder Singh Dhillion has alot to answer for, not just to the Delhi High Court either.
The many lives he still ruins on a daily basis and encapsulates minds of our fellow human beings into a Creepy Cult like Radha Soami and falsifys the real teachings of God, which will end in misery for him one day.
Being aware of this mafia master is a blessing in disguse as not many ever see past the masqueraded deceptive Dhillion.
Many Satsangis set out to ruin they're own lives and others too by preaching the evil ways of Gurinder Singh Dhillion & Radha Soami Cult
Simplyfiy your life enjoy the simple beauty and never look back at these so called self proclaimed god men like, Dogy Dhillion & leave the Deras and Babas behind.
Life is so Special
Posted by: Manoj | November 26, 2021 at 08:09 AM
We are all connected, we all have a different personal experience. We are all learning. This human life is worthy of Thanks for every moment.
No one wants to be told they are wrong. But being wrong is usually the start of a new lesson.
Everyone wants to live easily and pleasantly. But real achievements, real growth can demand everything we have within us and more, including painful and withering, crushing moments of utter defeat, as the next step to victory.
But avoiding those, without those, we can stagnate.
Thank you God for all the pleasant moments that teach us how nice life can be, and all the painful ones that actually teach us more about who we are, life, and You. And thank you for helping us turn to you to understand and act, to always look forward, accepting life as it is, and acting for the good of all.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | November 26, 2021 at 08:55 AM
"So rather than being thankful about some aspects of the trees, and not thankful about other aspects, I prefer to be thankful for nothing particular about them, which enables me to be thankful for everything about them -- though the whole notion of thankfulness then becomes irrelevant."
Huh? Sorry, but...
On a related Zen note, I recently checked out the Shobogenzo for the 1st time. Was really interested in reading Dogen's writings, which I'd heard so many good things about. Holy crap, what a disappointment. Dogen goes on for pages and pages about robes and other obscure things in a fanatical way, and generally makes no sense whatsoever.
An example: "Just at this moment - when reality is realized as the not committing of wrongs at the beginning, middle, and end - wrongs do not arise from causes and conditions; they are nothing other than just not committing. Wrongs do not vanish due to causes and conditions; they are nothing other than just not committing. If wrongs are in balance, all dharmas are in balance. Those who recognize that wrongs arise from causes and conditions, but do not see that these causes and conditions and they themselves are the reality of not committing, are pitiful people. The seeds of Buddhahood arise from conditions and, this being so, conditions arise from the seeds of Buddhahood. It is not that wrongs do not exist; they are nothing other than not committing. Wrongs are not immaterial; they are not committing. Wrongs are not material; they are not committing. Wrongs are not "not committing;" they are nothing other than not committing."
Dogen goes on in this vein for 10 pages.
Was Dogen really enlightened? Did Shiv Dayal really realize anami? Is gratitude or thankfulness really that complicated? Perhaps those who assiduously practice gurubhakti are actually on the right track, ever grateful for their status as satsagis and their relationship with God. At least as much so as the ardent Buddhist.
My own view of gratitude is that a simran of thankfulness is possible for everyone. It's a different kind of mindfulness technique from the popular understanding (though really, mindfulness in classical Buddhism wasn't never practiced for its own sake, but was always informed by reflection on anatta or metta). Simply looking at one's shoes and saying "I'm grateful I have shoes," then one's watch and the same oblation, then one's carpet, then one's whatever....this will infallibly change the outlook on life once one gets up to 25 or so. Then it becomes apparent that I am surrounded by an infinite abundance of things to be grateful for. Moreover, I find that I can also be grateful for the "dark" things I had resented or feared.
Love conquers all.
Posted by: Tendzin | November 26, 2021 at 10:53 AM
"Those who recognize that wrongs arise from causes and conditions, but do not see that these causes and conditions and they themselves are the reality of not committing, are pitiful people. The seeds of Buddhahood arise from conditions and, this being so, conditions arise from the seeds of Buddhahood. It is not that wrongs do not exist; they are nothing other than not committing. Wrongs are not immaterial; they are not committing. Wrongs are not material; they are not committing. Wrongs are not "not committing;" they are nothing other than not committing."
So commit! Wrongs arise from not committing.
Make the commitment and stick to it!
Make it so strongly that nothing can shake that commitment. Then you are actively really committing!
Wrong can't arise from that. Wrong can't touch that.
But commit to what? ;)
Posted by: Spence Tepper | November 26, 2021 at 11:35 AM
Commitment to thankfulness is a start. It's a solid foundation.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | November 26, 2021 at 11:36 AM
Americans should be thankful to their British Masters for giving them gift of unconscious mind in the form of false language and false education system.
Posted by: Vinny | November 27, 2021 at 01:10 AM
The way I perceive life is this: "Life Force, itself, is a gift. We were given the gift of life for a definite purpose, nest-ce pas?
The fact that we will all expire in one hundred years or less should produce concerned introspection and self-analysis. Human life is short, very short. In comparison, eternity never ends. In my humble view, there should be a deep concern for what occurs "after this life is terminated".
Cause and effect rules all sentient life, agreed? The seeds we have planted in the past (thoughts, feelings, actions, speech) all fructify in the fullness of time and we experience an equal harvest in the present moment, pleasurable or painful, happy or sorrowful. Yet who actually gives pause or deep thought to the possibility that we might have an accumulation of karma that is ginormous?
An analogy and lesson of karmic debt may be taken from the national debt of the USA (and many other bankrupt countries). It has been proven decades ago that the US financial obligations cannot be met; can never be paid off. Thus the US debt keeps growing. Our human karmas, in my belief system, are the same, i.e. we have accrued an accumulation of both good and bad karma that we cannot pay off, no matter how many lives we apply ourselves to doing so. Because the memories of past lives is erased with each new birth, we actually accrue more and more karma with every incarnation, inexorably adding to our karmic account.
We each have an unpayable karmic scroll which cannot be erased or modified. Now what? Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:”
Never let anyone tell you to stop seeking...that would be, in my humble opinion, spiritual suicide for this precious lifetime.
Posted by: Albert | November 27, 2021 at 07:43 AM
For those that deep in the RSSB cult run by very dark and evil souls like GSD, have the strength to do the right thing and run from this spider.
For those that are not caught in the web of illusion of RSSB under the spell of mafia Gurinder Singh Dhillon, be thankful, and have gratitude as you are free and independent, responsible for your own destiny and your loved ones.
Posted by: Uchit | November 27, 2021 at 03:00 PM