Recently, I visited a friend’s home who had on their wall a homemade Gratitude tree on which there was a note of things each family member was grateful for. The tree at this point was full of note cards with the things we most take advantage of. “I am thankful for a warm bed”, “I am thankful for the opportunity to eat any time I want”, “I am thankful for a warm shower”, “I am thankful for toys”, etc. The list was quite impressive and made me think about all of the things we aren’t mindful of on a daily basis. It also made me reflect on the things I am most grateful for. I have a thriving business in which I get to do what I love to do; make others feel good from the inside out. I have been given blessings big and small; noticeable and not so noticeable, and have been thankful each day for the opportunity to share my knowledge with others.
It’s easy to forget to be mindful. What with all of the distractions of the modern world, it’s extremely difficult to really pay attention to much of anything for more than 3 minutes at a time; which is why it’s so important to be mindful of your actions and decisions on Thanksgiving. On this day, we tend to throw everything out the window. We eat everything in sight, get caught up in the minutiae of dinner preparation, and get lost in our anxiety around certain members of our family (or lack thereof).
The most profound and practical texts in Zen teaches us mindfulness. For example, choose to prepare your food completely immersed in the knowledge of where it comes from, and handle it with care. Of course, you can’t contemplate the box of stuffing, but you can appreciate the innumerable labors that brought that food into your life.
Speaking of stuffing, making a family recipe of whichever dish you choose will help connect you to that family member-living or passed on-helping keep traditions and memories alive. Emulate their cooking methods to further steep you in to the mindful connection.
I know how difficult it is to live in the now, but do your best to live within each moment. Watch the green beans cook, notice the potatoes soften, pay attention to the conversations around you, smell the myriad of perfumes and colognes, let the reverberation of children laughing (or fighting) enter your senses. Try to separate each sense and live within them to fully appreciate them. Oddly enough, being this mindful will help you navigate through the chaos of the night.
Observe the harmony, the discord, and the rhythmic eating once all has settled. Invite joy and peacefulness and remember, in the end, to be thankful for all that you have, all that you don’t (yet), and for the knowledge in knowing the difference. Happy Thanksgiving!