Wednesday, February 21, 2007

November: Gratitude II: Practicing Thanksgiving

by Troy Chapman

(published November 06)

Here I am a few days into this month of gratitude and the first thing I notice is how forgetful and easily distracted I am. I wander off into mental grumbling or thoughtless boredom a few hundred times a day. Still, I’m reading my daily prayer and asking myself throughout the day: what am I grateful for in this moment?

It focuses me and that’s the point of spiritual commitment and practice. Focus, for me, translates into connection, which is a valuable commodity. So, here are some practices and ways to celebrate gratitude that I’m using this month to stay focused:

1) Set aside morning time — even if only a few minutes — to say thank you and meditate on all we have to be grateful for. This simple practice sets a tone for the day by opening our heart.

2) Break bread with the earth. Choose a place that’s meaningful to you, take a bit of bread there, give thanks, then break the bread, eat your portion and lay the other portion down as a symbol of your gratitude and connection to life. This can be done alone or with a friend and should be a time to remember that our body and everything we eat, drink, taste, touch, see, and smell come from the earth.

3) Have a thanks giving party. Invite a few friends — no more than five — to join you, but don’t tell them what it’s about until they arrive. When they arrive tell them you have something to say to each of them, then tell each of them at least five specific reasons you’re grateful for them. Toast them with wine or coffee. Raise your glass to the people who make your life worth living. Why not?

4) Give God a gift. Jesus said, Whatever you do unto the least of these you do unto me. In other words, the poor among us — whether spiritually or physically poor — represent Emmanuel: God with us. If we want to give God a gift we only have to give it to one of his representatives. Does God need a winter coat, a ride to town, an invitation to dinner, some work done around his house? What better way to say thank you for the many blessings in our own lives? It can be done anonymously or not, depending on the circumstances.

5) Thank those who serve you. Waitresses, clerks, countless people in positions under us at work from mailroom employees to secretaries serve us every day and deserve our gratitude. But don’t just say “thank you” in passing. Stop them or call them aside and tell them you appreciate their attitude, the way they do this or that aspect of their job. Or do it publicly by asking for people’s attention at a meeting or lunch. We certainly often forget to be grateful in life, but even when we remember that we often forget to express it. Both are important.

In closing, these are just ideas, not a “program” of any sort. Take just one or two or whatever fits your life, or come up with your own. One other thing is that if there are children in your life you can bring them in on any of this as a way of putting it out into the world and the future. Kids also bring their great energy of willingness and openness to such things and can help us get out of our adult ruts.

So, there you have it. I’m off to experiment. I’ll keep you posted.