With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we turned our attention this week to Gratitude. We noticed that gratitude comes in four types:
Gratitude for receiving what we want
Being thankful for our gifts is the most common type of gratitude. Abundant autumn harvests are celebrated across the world as people give thanks for our bounty.
Gratitude for the unnoticed
Westerners (in general) and Americans (in particular) tend to believe that the gifts we have received are the result of our actions. We embody the myth of the self-made person. In reality, many causes and conditions have led to our good fortune; efforts of people unknown, conditions unrecognized, grace unacknowledged, and pure luck. Gratitude is an antidote to entitlement because it invites us to see the capriciousness of our good fortune. When we realize we didn’t earn our position we are more likely to reach out a hand to those less blessed.
Gratitude for what we don’t want
A Tibetan prayer says, ‘Grant that I might have enough suffering to awaken the deepest possible compassion and wisdom.’ The greatness of leaders like Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Thich Nhat Hanh arose from the depth of their suffering. The pain of exile invited Thich Nhat Hanh to find home in every step. The pain of imprisonment invited Nelson Mandela to transcend his jailer's hatred. These leaders learned that gratitude for the unwanted teaches us to love the whole world.
When we let go of wanting a different now, the present moment is no longer obscured by our preferences and aversions. Transcendent gratitude naturally arises for things just as they are. We step out of the prison of our judgments and into life’s fullness.
A Thanksgiving blessing
May we all deepen our gratitude so that our good fortune becomes the fuel for recognizing, welcoming, and benefiting all beings. Shall we start at our Thanksgiving dinner table by giving thanks for this circle of interbeing, knowing that this intimate circle is supported by countless others radiating out like ripples in an infinite pond?
Oh, that first bite of pumpkin pie, so vast and interconnected, tastes sweet!