There are many things to be grateful “for” but, as I ripen with the seasons of life, the many reasons blend into a sacred mystery. And, most deeply, I realize that living gratefully is its own blessing. ~ Michael Mahoney
Thanksgiving is such a beautiful holiday. It seems as though it brings out something profoundly human in us – the ability, and opportunity, to reflect on our lives and realize what we have been blessed with. I know in my own life, though, many times it has been much easier to be grateful when things are going well, when it feels like Life has my back.
This past Thursday on Thanksgiving, I was reflecting on what and who is no longer in my life – my late-husband, who died almost 15 years ago; my mother, who died last year; my grandparents who have all passed on; and many other things too personal to mention here. I used to lament these losses. I couldn’t quite separate out my grief from the victim story. As I became more aware of how this lamentation was holding me back from being fully engaged with life, I began to see that grief, if allowed to flow unimpeded, is a naturally intelligent process – one that will bring you out the other side if you learn to trust, and allow, its unpredictable flow.
To move past the victim story, I had to see all that I had been given, for the time I had been granted. I had to see that things come and things go; that people come and people go. The times of suffering in my life came when I attempted to hang on to what was no longer here.
Learning to trust in the mystery of grief is no different than learning to trust in the good times that come just as unpredictably. It’s all unpredictable – that’s the mystery that is at the core of this beautiful blessing that is life. Life ripens us, if we allow ourselves to feast on the entire banquet it serves.
I suppose it is this ripening that happens through the seasons of life that allows greater trust in the mystery that is life at its core. Something profoundly beautiful happens when I drop the reasons for being grateful and just live gratitude.
A few years ago, 2005 to be exact, I wrote an article on Giving Gratitude Forward. The article began like this:
If you think gratitude doesn’t have a thing to do with creativity, you’re probably not alone. Many believe gratitude is something we have for what has already happened. Gratitude and appreciation almost always is focused on the past.
Many times we aren’t present, in the moment, to what we are receiving to be grateful for it as it comes. But even more often, we don’t think of, feel, or express gratitude for what is to come in the future. How can we be grateful for what hasn’t even happened yet? Who knows how good (or bad) it really might be? I mean, how can we be grateful for something if we don’t yet know we are happy it has happened. Sounds sort of like a Zen Koan…confusing and confounding…but it’s not.
When you naturally feel and express deep gratitude for all of life and its inherent intelligence and abundance, you are opening your heart and soul to this creative force. You remember you are in the flow of life and touch in again with all that supports you. This flow is there all the time, even when you don’t remember. It is a grateful, open heart that re-opens and re-connects you to this creative flow.
When you start with deep true gratitude for what is, you connect your own creative nature to that of everything around you. Acknowledging that there is a deeper intelligence and that it is at work in every moment, invites in the infinite possibilities inherent in each moment. read more
Over the past five years since I wrote this piece, life has presented some profoundly transformational gifts – my mother’s long, protracted illness and the stark reality of the painful death she experienced; the birth of my new granddaughter on my mother’s birthday, six weeks after Mom passed; the birth of my grandson eight months later; the births of my great-nieces and great-nephew; and a beautiful new relationship in my life. Birth, Death and Re-birth, all rolled up into one beautiful flow of life that has gifted me the opportunity to see my place in the flow of life.
But here is another transformational gift life has presented, and this is a big one: the growing realization that life on Earth as we know it, is in the process of a deep and radical change. It is easy to stay in a place of denial that all will be well, that someone, somewhere, will take care of things, will make things better, will save the day, will save the myriad expressions of nature from becoming extinct, will feed the children, will stop the horrific things being perpetrated upon women, children, the earth, and, yes, men.
Living gratefully for its own sake is humbling, for it is in this living that I know beyond a doubt that I have absolutely no control over all that I thought I had.
Living gratefully is also enlightening, because I know that it is in the chaos of the mystery that transformation can happen. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we don’t know how things will turn out, either in our own lives, or for all of life here on earth.
Most importantly as I wrote in my article of 2005, living gratefully brings us to awareness of our personal internal creative resource, and communion with, the creativity inherent in life itself. This is key because knowing we, and all other human beings, are naturally creative, in fact wildly creative, can move us from denial into collaborative conscious action, action that comes from the deeper intelligence that is our creativity.
I feel living gratefully for all that we have had, and have been blessed with, is key to realizing that we have to wake up and become conscious with what is unfolding before our eyes, to where things are and to what is wanting to be born. Beyond anything else, for the sake of my children and grandchildren, and for the sake of all children, the earth and all of life, I want us human beings to work it out – to really get it that we have screwed things up, to begin to listen to how we can change our ways and walk in the ways of humility and compassion, and to begin to live the wild creativity that we have been blessed with.
Living gratefully is living with the immediate awareness that all we can ever know and experience is a bigger gift than we can ever understand with our minds.
As I wrote five years back, “Acknowledging that there is a deeper intelligence and that it is at work in every moment, invites in the infinite possibilities inherent in each moment.”
What if we were to look forward to the mystery of the future with vibrantly alive gratitude for whatever comes, knowing that it is this deeper intelligence at work in each moment? We then might recognize a new way of life for human beings, in harmony with the rest of life, that is being offered up. We might then see that the mystery knows something we cannot – until it is time for us to know it.
We might even remember along the way, no matter what life brings, that Life, itself, is the gift.