Thanksgiving and Bliss
Thanksgiving and Bliss
by Rebecca Amstutz
Frequently we talk about thankfulness, gratitude, and appreciation interchangeably, almost as if they meant the same thing. But do they, really? How can we parse the difference, and what importance can that difference make in our lives?
When we look deeper, we find that thankfulness usually indicates acknowledgment of something we have been given. We are taught to say thank you for birthday gifts; for granny’s chocolate chip cookies; for a well-timed rescue from a bad blind date. There is an obligation that is noted and addressed. Thankfulness is one-sided—one person has given, and the other has received.
Gratitude, however, finds its origin in the Latin gratus (not to be confused with gratis, or free), which means “pleasing,” or even “beloved,” and is loosely connected to the concept of blessings from grace. Gratitude is grounded in seeing what is good and right and beautiful in our lives. We are awake and aware. We know.
So where does appreciation fit in? Appreciation is the natural outward manifestation that flows from gratitude, a giving that is inevitably connected to receiving, and that moves seamlessly to and fro. Here, finally, is the yin and yang; the ease and effort; the surrender and the striving. The only requirement for appreciation is to become present—to become mindful in our awareness—and from this place of connection grow the feelings of love and joy and peace.
As we sit down with friends and family for our Thanksgiving meal, we can be grateful for the food before us. We can also appreciate the people who grew it and the hands that prepared it. We can appreciate its colors, its textures, and its tastes. We can appreciate the wonder of the day, and our unique place within it. We can even appreciate the crabbiness of our oldest great-uncle and the wildness of our sister’s youngest child.
Further reflection might allow us to let go of the stress of the upcoming holiday season and simply feel the ending of another calendar year—the completion of a cycle, and the closing of a circle. And we might feel warm and comfortable inside. How, truly, could it be otherwise in our lives and on this planet? Our Earth is implacably round.
Gandhi once said, “There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” Let today be the day that thankfulness engenders the gratitude from which all appreciation flourishes. Today and today and today. One moment at a time.
And to you who have touched our lives so deeply: we see you. You are appreciated. And you are loved.