“Give thanks, count your blessings, be grateful,” we hear these phrases so often, but what do they really mean, and why is it a “good idea” to be grateful? The word gratitude originates from the Latin gratus, meaning: thankful, pleasing, agreeable. Gratus is the root for words like grace, meaning: mercy, favor, elegance, and virtue. One of the interesting aspects of gratitude is that it is other-person directed, meaning that the feeling is generated by another being outside of ourselves. We feel grateful towards another, because of something shared or given to us. This creates an opportunity for connection and explains some of the positive effects of feeling this emotion, such as: the ability to handle life’s challenges, create strong relationships, enjoying positive experiences, and promote overall positive emotions and physical health. But how do we effectively incorporate the benefits of this feeling into our daily lives?
Like many of you, I’ve watched and read “The Secret,” seen “What the Bleep Do We Know,” and attended “Self-Realization” seminars based on the idea that a state of gratitude can actually change our lives. But is it enough to simply say thank you more often? Can listing 10 things I’m grateful for upon waking really transform my life? Is it really healthy to be in a state of gratitude all the time?
As a lifelong student of Five Element Theory, my personal belief is that our emotions are an ever-evolving and transformative movement of energy. The categorization of emotions as good or bad is static, unrealistic, and simplistic. If a loved one is wronged, or a societal constraint is obviously unjust, anger is a powerful initiator for change. Health and balance lies in the ability to move through our emotions. This affords us the opportunity to be more conscious of our internal landscape. Dis-ease arises when we get stuck in one or another emotion, particularly when that emotion is inappropriate for the situation.
Thankfully, I was raised to say please and thank you but I’m not going to lie, sometimes the words are truly felt and sometimes they are just empty words. Here lies the divide between the simple and complex. Are words powerful when simply being spoken, or is the strength of the sentiment more essential than the expression? Studies indicate that just saying “thank you” does have a positive effect, but the effect is on the person receiving the thank you. My personal opinion is that words are sounds that convey our true feelings and emotions. The word love spoken with hate can feel condemning and hurtful, hate spoken with love can feel uplifting. Don’t get me wrong, consciously choosing words is a powerful tool, but saying one thing when you feel another is actually disempowering. What matters to me is being conscious of what my words mean and what I’m trying to convey. “Be impeccable with your word” (the Four Agreements) is a tall order and not always achievable to the level I would like (enter “Always do your best”). Simply attempting to do so is when the internal shift takes place. The act of carefully choosing words to convey our truth is when they become empowered. This is when an “attitude of gratitude” sends ripples of joy and compassion throughout our life.
So what does gratitude really feel like? Is it the emotion you feel when the Thanksgiving Holiday comes to mind? What are we choosing to celebrate? Whatever your celebration, why not be truly conscious of it? What is your true expression of gratitude? My mother was a great believer in the power of ritual. Ritual at its best elevates conscious speaking by adding physical action, at its worst it is a forced and empty activity. The lineage of ritual she left me is a connection to the Earth and our ancestors, an honoring of the Native American people, the connection of our family tribe, the joy of gift-giving, gratitude to the people who make that possible, and the selfless act of giving back to those who have less.
When I look forward to Thanksgiving I think of my family with all of their quirks, occasionally frustrating habits, and my own occasional relapse into old habits. I think of our unending love, support, and sacrifice, and I feel full of gratitude and grace. I am grateful for the opportunity to celebrate our own unique tradition. I am grateful to my mother for creating a deeper meaning beyond the commercial holiday. I am grateful for the delicious food we share and the sacrifice of both animal and plant-life so that I may subsist. I am grateful to be alive and able to feel and express gratitude along with the beautiful myriad of human emotions. There are many ways to elicit and express gratitude. I find the exploration of what that individual journey is, and how it unfolds throughout my life, creates the “good” in gratitude.
A Thanksgiving Grace
by Ruth Ann Rauter 11/23/2017
The silver moon, the shining sun,
The lightening stroke, and thunder's drum,
The blessing rain, the wind that blows,
The golden grain and fruit that grows,
Spring rebirth and summer green,
Autumn cleanse and winter scene,
Are in this food that we now share,
In each breath of precious air,
In flesh and blood, skin and bone,
In every star and every stone.
Our thanks we give for this embrace,
From our hearts we spread God's grace,
To dear ones here and those above,
We send the peace, joy and love,
For all God's children everywhere,
Yellow, red, dark and fair,
For all God's creatures tame and free,
For the web of life and sacred tree,
This we pray most heart-fully,
That all may feel harmony.
Thanksgiving Roasted Root Vegetable Recipe
- 2 1/2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 5 cups)
- 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 bunch beets (about 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed but not peeled, scrubbed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 medium-size red onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
- 1 large turnip, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
- 1 head of garlic, cloves separated, peeled
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
Preheat oven to 425°F. Oil 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Combine all ingredients in very large bowl; toss to coat. Divide vegetables between prepared baking sheets; spread evenly. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables until tender and golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour 15 minutes. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm in 350°F oven 15 minutes.)