Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: give thanks (page 1 of 2)

The Subversive Act of Gratitude

For years I’ve been curious about Thanksgiving and the idea of gratitude. One of my earliest posts, Thankshaving, (which hilariously looks a lot like Thank-shaving instead of Thanks-having) attempted to parse through this. I’ve remained a student of this idea of gratitude for years. This year, I think I graduated to 8th grade in the subject, as I’ve begun to realize what a powerful act it can be to cultivate a sense of thankfulness in any situation.

Thanksgiving is the day we sit around the table and say what we’re thankful for, the stuff that we readily forget for the other 364 days of the year. Our homes, our families, and our jobs move high on the list because we often only complain about these things, but on Turkey Day, we are glad to have them and cannot imagine life without them.

On the 4th Thursday of the eleventh month, we corporately and individually declare what is right in our world. Hidden beneath our gratitude, we find a layer of acknowledgement that life isn’t perfect, and we still find space to be thankful for what is good. It’s our way of saying, what I have, and what I am, is enough. Maybe, even, (probably!) more than enough.

In our culture, one that tells us how we aren’t beautiful enough, or successful enough, or loving enough, this is a radical act. We’re led to believe that we’re constantly without enough time, money, friends, power, control, and love to be worthy of our existence, and yet, on a day full of White Carbs of Happiness, we have the power to look at the Black Friday ads and say, “liar.”

When you begin a month full of shopping from this posture, you hold all the trump cards, my friends. You can play the right and the left bower as you see fit. You are free to enjoy a month of giving and receiving because you get to do so as a response to – not a source of – gratitude.

No one really disputes the consumerism of our society, specifically in the month of December, yet it continues to progress. Some propose downplaying all the gifting, and taking a “minimalist” approach (which I appreciate and even integrate). But I’m not sure it actually gets to the root of it. It can slightly shift us from the financial burden and the overcrowding of our homes, but it doesn’t return us to center. Making enough holiday gifts can keep us in the same rat race of earning our worthiness as the old fashioned way of buying it. In fact, now it’s so trendy to reduce the holiday consumption that we’re adding more stress by needing to find that perfect amount to spend and give, so that it’s not too little or too much.

I’m really digging the idea that moving from gratitude will provide much more peace and joy to our Christmas season because we’re not trying to do it right. The perfect gift isn’t necessary, because we’re practiced in saying “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be good.” We’re moving from a place of enough. We already are enough, and any gift we give is just gravy on the taters (and stuffing and turkey).

This year, as the children write their wish lists and I start my Amazon (and local!) purchasing, I’m finding a new kind of excitement about the season. I can’t wait to look for the things my kids enjoy, and not because I need to provide them perfect presents or risk ruining their childhood. All of heaven knows they don’t need anything. Gratitude reminded us: we are enough. We have enough. We’re simply celebrating our enoughness, and the result is joy.

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Thankful for Enough

This time of year we usually sit down to a table abundantly filled with all the trimmings and gorge, a way of celebrating the many things for which we are thankful. So not to be too materialistic, “family and friends” usually tops the list of our thankful list, followed by the many things we have that keep us safe and warm and protected. Good stuff – nothing wrong with that.

This November, after having spent nearly an entire year with my view flipped upside down by Brene Brown exposing me to the way we live in a culture dominated by theoretical scarcity, it changes Thanksgiving. Scarcity tells us that we have what others do not, so we ought to be thankful. That line of reasoning ignites a fear in us that, perhaps, the tables could be turned. We could be the ones living without these things. So we should be thankful for what we have.

That’s not gratitude. That’s fear.

“Show an appreciation or risk loosing it.” That’s the dominant mindset of our typical American Thanksgiving. (And, oh, how often have I used that mentality in dealing with my children?! I hate when my writing means I have to start living my values.)

We sit at our tables on Thanksgiving day, often holding with tight fists the things we love most, declaring our thanks to them and holding them up for display. We have this. And we may not have that, but we do have this. And this.

Take out scarcity, and what do we have? If we believed in the concept of Enough – that the world is big enough to hold us all, that God and the universe can supply all our needs, that life is not a Zero Sum game – how would our posture change?

I think we would begin to realize we don’t have a corner of the market and we don’t have to mark of our territory. We don’t even have to fear loosing our blessings, that if we’re not thankful enough God will pry them from our fingers and hand them off to the next guy.

I think we would share more. I think we would open our tables and our hearts. I think we would live with a sense of humility, that what we have isn’t always a direct result from our hard work. I think we would celebrate a shared victory and even root on those around us – perhaps even those different from us.

Isn’t that what the Pilgrims and the Indians thing is all about? Two groups of people who lived as if the land could support both of them? These folks decided, instead of killing off another group to have what they have, to believe there was enough for everyone at the table. The original Thanksgiving was a day when Scarcity Theory didn’t win. They sat down to their turkey and stuffing (not completely true) and saw they had enough. They didn’t have to fight. They could choose harmony over hatred, and collaboration over competition.

Perhaps this Thanksgiving we can approach the table with open hands. Not with eyes on what others do or don’t have, but with what lies in front of us. This year I’m thankful for enough. There hasn’t been a day this year that we have run out of what we needed. Money in the checkbook, energy at the end of the day, love in our hearts, even health in our bodies (said the same time that pneumonia is ravaging one of us in this house). We still have enough.

We don’t have it all. But we don’t need it all. We only need enough.

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Take a breath

This morning I read a Psalm, a poem penned (etched, more likely) by the Great King David on a morning before heading into battle. He spoke of waking the dawn with music lifted to God and ended by asking God to go with his men into battle for the day. In ancient belief, the only way to win a battle is to have your God win the victory. David was no different – he wanted to live to see the sunset and he was asking God for that privilege.

Today two of my friends will say final goodbyes to a dear friend. Just this week marked one year since another dear friend lost her mother.  People in my circle are mourning – parents, close relatives, good friends. Some of those leaving this world are healthy, others not. Some have enjoyed a life filled with days, others, it seems, got half of what was due. It doesn’t matter the circumstances, the pain of loss is often a cut from the same knife.

To King David, marching off to battle or to myself, sitting in my cozy leather chair in the living room, we are all asking for the next breath. David had an advantage as swords and spears tend to bring our attention to the value of the next breath, but it doesn’t change the currency.

I’m too much of a pacifist to enjoy a war analogy; instead I decide to begin my day much the same way. God, the giver of breath and life, be present in my day and continue to grant my lungs that precious inhale and exhale. May my chest rise and fall repeatedly today, to the joy and benefit of myself and my loved ones. Grant that same breath to those I hold close and may we each feel your presence in it. 

 

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