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Giving Thanks

“This food comes from the earth and the sky. It is a gift of the entire universe and the fruit of much hard work; I vow to live a life which is worthy to receive it.” — Grace of the Bodhisattva Buddhists

At the beginning of every class, while we’re sitting in sukhasana, my yoga teacher always says to “give silent gratitude for all the blessings in our lives.” And, even though I am mentally not quite “there” yet — I’m still trying to find my “sit bones” and thinking about my grocery list and how I forgot my daughter’s gym shoes and did I shut the garage door? — usually, I do it. Images of my kids’ faces and my cozy brick house flash through my mind, and if I take time to really think about it (and not about the location of my cute new flats that I hope the dog isn’t eating right now), I realize I have so much to be grateful for: my close, loving family of course, my friends, my health, my readers, my Dutch oven, fire-roasted Hatch green chiles, pastured butter, and the fact that I am rarely hungry.

These days I’ve been trying to do that — give thanks — more often. I even went and bought a gorgeous blank book and started keeping a “gratitude journal,” which I know sounds a little Starhawk-ish, but going back and reading it really makes me happy. Not only does it serve as a very clear reminder that I should never ever gripe, but it makes me smile remembering things like: Today I am grateful for David coming home safe from Alaska with 75 lbs. of wild salmon…for Sean scoring a touchdown…for Tammy bringing me fresh eggs from her barn…for my cool new orange Mario Batali Crocs…for Lauren having a play date after school…for banana jam… Hey, I know this is the gag-inducing stuff for a lot of you, and what can I say but sorry about that.

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving (I know, shocker). I think the fact that we celebrate this doggedly un-materialistic holiday — that people endure often excruciatingly unpleasant hours or days of travel just to spend some time cooking, eating, and relaxing (okay and watching football) with their families and friends — is one of the things that makes me proudest to be an American. I know for some of us it’s the family gatherings that are excruciating, but there’s something oddly reassuring about that, too. And deep down I think we are all happy to be sharing this blatantly American holiday, no matter how wacky or dysfunctional it might seem. Seriously, what could be better than a day devoted doing to two of the most joy-inducing activities there are — eating and saying thanks — with the people you love?

The entire idea of “Thanks-giving” is just that. Whether you’re religious or not, I think saying a blessing is a nice way to force us all to take a deep breath, take our paws off the crescent rolls, and sanctify the event. Even if the event in question is a meal consisting of green jell-o with mandarin oranges, can-shaped Ocean Spray, and Stove Top, it still signifies that we are a country of free people who can and deserve to be happy, (perhaps overly) well-fed, and, yes, grateful.

So, just in case you’re drawing a blank, here are a few nice blessings. These work for any meal.

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

This night I hold an old accustom’d feast,
Whereto I have invited many a guest such as I love;
And you among them the store, one more,
Most welcome make make number more.
— William Shakespeare

What we say at most family dinners, including Thanksgiving, is some version of this (from the Book of Common Prayer):

Give us grateful hearts, O Father,
for all thy mercies, and
make us mindful of the needs of others;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!



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