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November 27, 2013 at 9:40 AM

S11.JPGby Steph Long

We may not think of Thanksgiving as a “spiritual” holiday. Yes, we gather with family and friends, we share a delicious feast, and we might even have to say out loud to one another “something we are thankful for,” around the table. Because this day isn’t associated exclusively with one particular religion, we might refer to it as a secular holiday. But there is something intensely spiritual to me about a day dedicated to gratitude.

Consider this quote from Melonie Beattie:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity… It turns problems into gifts, failures into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

For many, these may seem like lofty claims: denial into acceptance? Chaos into order? Problems into gifts? This seems impossible. Unrealistic. Magic. Gratitude must mean that we slyly trick ourselves into believing that everything is great, or bury our heads in the sand, unwilling to face the realities of our less than perfect lives. Surely it isn’t expected that we are always practicing gratitude.

Well, for a several months now I have been engaging in a daily (or almost daily) gratitude practice. Each day I write down10 things – 10 aspects of my life – for which I am grateful, and why. It is a simple practice that began by naming the most obvious blessings: my marriage, my home, my work, my cats, etc. In the first few weeks, it helped to keep me focus on the positives. It helped me to reframe less than ideal situations when they would arise. It cheered me up when I was feeling blue.

After a few months, however, I have experienced the immense impact of gratitude on my life in surprising and unexpected ways. I am filled with trust. With hope. With love. Solutions and opportunities arise out of thin air. I am constantly on the look out for things for which I am grateful – and they are obviously evident. When I enter into this practice of giving thanks for the gifts I’ve received, I acknowledge the abundance of the universe, and the universe responds. It is like magic. It is like Pandora or Spotify (the on-line streaming music sites) – when you hit the thumbs-up icon and it gives you more of what you like. Please understand: it isn’t about lying to yourself. It isn’t even about focusing only on the positives; it’s about finding some aspect of your situation to which you haven’t yet opened up, and acknowledging more than you usually would – the curse and the blessing, the confusion and the clarity. Suddenly you can experience it all.

Each time engage in the spiritual practice of giving thanks, it brings me back into myself. It’s where I feel best – most authentically me. It helps me to trust – myself, others, life… It inspires me. I feel connected to the flow of the universe. Gratitude calms my nervous system and lifts me into a higher frequency – one in which I can find focus and peace.

I am grateful for gratitude.

So, as you wake up on Thanksgiving Day, I encourage you to begin your own simple spiritual practice by trying it out and writing down your ten blessings and why you are grateful. Perhaps your past will start to make sense. You might find peace for today. And by clicking that cosmic thumbs-up icon, you may just create an abundant and blessed vision for tomorrow.