In honor of Thanksgiving, the leadership team at La Maida would like to offer these reflections on gratitude:
A quote from David Whyte : “Gratitude is not a passive response to something we have been given, gratitude arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. Gratitude is not necessarily something that is shown after the event, it is the deep a priori state of attention that shows we understand and are equal to the gifted nature of life”
– Alexis Naim
This last week has demonstrated how now more than ever we need to swing our collective consciousness towards gratitude. Simply put gratitude is the quality of being thankful…. for all things. Gratitude is my daily practice, with some days needing more attention than others, and has become a part of my being, part of me – and it’s taken a long time to become exactly that. A Gratitude practice is something I turned to in a deep desire to bring myself out of darkness. It began as keeping a list for 60 days, forcing me to pay attention to everything in life, from the smallest experience to the biggest, from the worst to the best and from that, learning to hold each moment as sacred. We are the sum total of our experiences and how we relate to our experiences. Now as I move throughout my day, I notice under the surface, under the daily turmoil there’s a calm I can tap into. Gratitude is the key to overcoming any situation and having a community to practice and refine our relationship to it can help shift the global perspective. Imagine what it would look like if everyone practiced ‘the quality of being thankful’ for more than just one day.
– Erin Hoien
As a spiritual practice, cultivating a mental state of gratitude is a form of service for all living beings because as social-emotional creatures attuned to one another, the state of our mind and hearts impact those around us. Gratitude is an essential nutrient in living a fulfilled life as it creates a sense of belonging, connectedness and an open heart.
Currently I am practicing gratitude for the land and those who maintained it with a depth of attention and reverence for many centuries. It holds us day in and day out without asking for much in return. With the current state of wildfires and climate change, I am grateful for the strength and resilience our land holds. As botanist Robin Wall Kimmer wisely states “Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.”
– Anjali Deva
Gratitude through Grief
One of the most powerful sources of deep and lasting gratitude comes alongside the process of grieving and the experience of loss. At its most simple, losing something we cherish forces us to appreciate that we had that thing in the first place. At its most profound, loss connects us to the impermanent nature of all things, and in that way, it encourages thankful engagement with the bounty of the present moment.
I remember a vivid and visceral shift in my understanding of gratitude somewhere in the middle of my three-year journey through recurrent pregnancy loss and infertility. My heart was yearning for a child; my head was working so hard to make sense of the seemingly endless loss and heartache. I was hiking one day and was jolted with a new reality – I am not entitled to a healthy pregnancy and baby. Nobody is. If it happens, it is only a gift. An immediate next thought – I am not entitled to this life, this next breath. Nobody is. This life is only a gift. A softening occurred; a return to some form of allowance for an unfolding that’s not mine to understand.
This life is a gift, not a given. This next breath is a gift, not a given. The people and things we have and hold dear are not ours to keep. They are ours to love, nurture, and let go of when the time comes. When we can sit in the tender and shaky space of that ephemeral reality, when it lingers in the background even amidst the busyness, the mundane, and the trite, then the grace of gratitude fills us up. Gratitude is a foundational force, allowing us to build beautiful purpose from our trying times of grief and inspiring us to restore our thanks when we forget what matters most.
– Kelly Benshoof
Gratitude is a state of thankfulness. It is a feeling that arises when we take action to participate in life. When we come in to awareness of life’s limitations and fragility, it is then that we come in to the fullest capacity for appreciation. Health itself is a triumph of order over the natural decay and disorder – these are the laws of nature that somehow this force of life defies since the beginning of time. When we recognize that life is fragile and temporary, we begin to participate in the primal truth of gratitude – that every thing we have is precious, sacred and a miracle, worthy of celebration, reverence and awe. Even our deepest pains and tragedies are something to surrender to with courage, to receive its fullest revealing. To bring all of who we are, our deepest desires for connection, for belonging and for meaning, to bear in life, in service, is the greatest act of gratitude. Happy people know that gratitude is not something you get when something you want happens, it’s an attitude born of an acknowledgment of its inherent truth about life, the delusion being a sense of temporary entitlement. Gratitude is our natural state. In the wild we are always conscious of this – that we are lucky to just be alive. May we come together in this spirit this Thanksgiving and holiday season: grateful for each other, grateful for our lives, however much pain we have endured, and grateful for each day we have on this earth.
– Omid Naim