Reflections: Giving Thanks

Giving thanks is important, an act that is sometimes polluted by our upbringing.  For example, as a child I was sometimes asked by my parents to say thank you for things that I may not have actually appreciated.

I recall the ritual of praying before supper meals.  My mother would ask: “Who would like to give thanks?” When no one would respond, my father would launch into a standard prayer with the intent of fulfilling the required ritual so that he could get to the main course.  In other words, giving thanks in my youth did not often seem like the main course, but rather the necessary procedure leading to the main course.  My father would pray: “Oh lord, bless this food to the good of our bodies, and us to thy service.  Amen.” Since that was the only prayer he ever said, my brother and I found it humorous – the way he would rush through the words to get to Amen.  We had to develop the art of silent laughter or suppressed giggles.  Laughing out loud would have landed consequences.

Even then, I knew it wasn’t genuine thanks.  I asked what the prayer meant, and was told to eat my food before it got cold.  Perhaps a more appropriate thanks, in revisionist fantasy, would have been: “Thank you cow, for becoming hamburger.  Thank you broccoli, even though I don’t like you very much.  Thank you salt, for helping me eat my broccoli.  Thank you baked potato, for providing a skin in which to hide the uneaten portion of my broccoli.  And thank you ice cream.  I do hope we have ice cream for dessert, which also comes from a cow, but not the same cow that was turned into hamburger.”

I like to think that both my palate and my praying have matured.

It was Carlos Castaneda who began to teach me to say thank you, in his book Journey to Ixtlan.  Whatever else is true about the man, he taught me a lot of how to live a life – especially in that book.  I learned how to say thank you from my heart.  In Journey to Ixtlan, Don Juan had Castaneda thanking flowers as a means of losing self importance, had him thanking landscapes for what was alive in them, had him thanking his worthy opponent for lessons learned, and had him generally thanking all his teachers – whatever their form.  This is what I got out of it: the world is alive and events are pregnant and if we’re mindful of that fact we should also be thankful.  Adding Buddhism to my practice extended the realm of thanks to ordinary people and events.  Life becomes more heartwarming when it can be perceived as a gift rather than a series of expectations, privileges, or entitlements.  Like so many things, it’s easier to say than to live.

When I began a sweat lodge (spirit sauna) for a group a shamanic practitioners, the first round of prayers were often dedicated to thanks.  This was done at the request of my spirit helpers.  Thanks became a palatable force, like bodhicitta (in Buddhism – the force or mindful projection of compassion).

These days, I often would like to say thanks with a bow or with folded hands, because thanks comes from the whole body.  This is rarely possible, so I have to imagine the gesture.  For example, I don’t want to confuse the checkout person at a store unnecessarily.  So sometimes I try to focus my thanks with attention.  That could translate as lightness, or politeness, or recognition through eye contact.

Which brings me to the intention of this round of thanks (I can’t fold my hands, because they are typing).  I want to thank Richard Spees for all of his eBook and website instruction and support, and for the design of this website.  I want to thank Frank DeMarco for encouraging me, more than once, to blog.  I want to thank my spirit helpers.  I want to thank my friends (just for being friends – they don’t have to read this blog).  And I want to thank the readers of this blog, hoping that something useful or worthwhile is communicated.

I’d like to extend the previous paragraph to read as a timeless thanks, using the portals that lead outside of time.  There may be a way of thanking, not just with our whole bodies, but with a larger aspect of our Being.  From that perspective, this blog already exists in its entirety, from its birth to its end (someday).  I’m not suggesting I can see any of that from Here.  Obviously, I can’t.  If it helps, the only thing I’m attending to in this moment is Now.  And in this Now, I feel the connection with my larger Self.  That connection often begins with thanks.  And when Soul speaks to Soul, I fancy they also begin with thanks.

What I hope is that some aspect of this moment will communicate with the Interface – poised at the thinnest edge between the timeless unconscious (or Super-conscious) and the personal consciousness of individuals – awaiting recognition.  Does this sound too fanciful?  Maybe.  There’s a lot I don’t know.  And I’m not going to pretend that I’m always thankful.  Right now I AM, but I can’t guarantee Time.  So I better keep on practicing.

When I was a child, I thought it would be great if every day was Christmas.  Of course, I was so very wrong.  Even to a child, the day would lose its unique anticipation.  However, Thanks-giving has the capacity to retain its sacred quality throughout the year.  Thanks-giving can be a timeless experience, even if only for a moment.  Thanks-giving can soul-full and – as  holiday greetings suggest – happy.  I hope I haven’t gotten too carried away (the sign of a rookie blogger).  There are more thanks in mind than can be communicated in a single post.  My thanks – TO BE CONTINUED… off-line.

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2 Responses to Reflections: Giving Thanks

  1. Shirley says:

    How wonderful to see that you and I (and Earl) continue to be on that indescribable Seeker’s path all these years since we drummed/journeyed together. The future appears to be luminous and illimitable, and moreso in your company. Namaste!

  2. Emilio Bettaglio says:

    There are moments when being thankful in a special way seem appropriate–the moment the new moon is born in spring initiating the gestation period for the growing season, the birth af a sentient being, the receipt of change from the cashier at the grocery store Jim speaks about, etc… Being able to merge with the larger aspect of Being, as Jim propooses, in the spirit of gratitude is for me a rare experience. Reading Shirley’s comment above and all the memories it evokes of our intermittent crossing paths does fill my Being with gratitude. Thank you Jim for providing a forum for these exchanges, for your willigness to freely share your wisdom, and for saying thank you in a timeless way.

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