Thanksgiving, literally a day to give thanks, is a day about gratitude. What are you grateful for? Gratitude is such an important part of our practice. From a meditative perspective, gratitude is the antidote to our suffering of grasping, greed, and desire. This is the kind of suffering that I call the delusion of “if only.”
If only I had more money. If only I had this hot new electronic gadget. If only I went on this trip, or got this shiny new toy, or experience, or whatever… We can spend our whole lives chasing these “if onlies.” We do this because we mistakenly believe that getting more will make us happy. True, maybe for awhile unwrapping that shiny new iPad (my latest “if only”) will make us happy, but it is always fleeting, and then we immediately go onto the next, seeking happiness. It’s like we are addicted to this grasping. We get a hit of satisfaction of getting that new thing, but it fades and then we need more. We will never be satisfied.
As I sit writing this, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I am bombarded by ads for door buster sales and Black Friday specials. The irony on a day to give thanks for what we have should not be lost. Marketing works because it takes advantage of our delusion of “if only.”
But we can break the cycle, and gratitude is the tool that we use. As you celebrate today, be sure to take a moment to mindfully reflect on what you are grateful for. See if you can cultivate feelings of gratitude. For some, this isn’t easy, but we can literally practice gratitude. Naming things for which we are grateful strengthens our feelings of gratitude.
Try keeping a gratitude journal. Every day, write down two things you are grateful for. It can be as simple as your morning cup of coffee, or a nice message from a friend. Over time you will find that you already have everything that you need to find deep satisfaction and happiness. Giving thanks, it turns out, is not something just for one day, but for every day.