By Marilyn Dion, Certified Life-cycle Celebrant®
As I tap on the keys of my laptop organizing my thoughts about thankfulness and gratitude, I realize how thankful I am to have not only the ability to express myself but the tools to do so. I am grateful to you, dear reader, as without you there is no point in writing. May you be inspired to be a happier healthier you – thankful every day of your life!
In North America, October and November are the months where the feeling and expressing of thanks is top of mind for most people, Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October and American Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November.
The origins of the designated holiday celebrations differ significantly. In America, Thanksgiving has everything to do with the Mayflower and Native peoples feasting with pilgrims in Plymouth in 1621. The older recorded roots in Canada are quite different as the celebrations of Thanksgiving have been about everything from First Nations crop celebrations, Frobisher’s successful 1578 crossing of the Northwest Passage, and war victories to Protestant Church religious designation as an official holy day to thank God for bountiful harvests. The cultural importance of the day differs across Canada. The four Maritime Provinces do not designate a stat holiday and in Quebec where it is called “action de grâce”, the extent of the celebrations is much less – probably due to its Anglophone and Protestant origins. Canadian Thanksgiving weekend includes Oktoberfest celebrations with the second largest in the world (next to Germany) taking place in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. The Thanksgiving meal is not necessarily turkey especially in Newfoundland where guests around the table are more likely to be served the more traditional Jiggs’ dinner consisting of cabbage, root vegetables and salt meat.
In both countries Thanksgiving has evolved into a time to acknowledge and appreciate what is good in our lives, to celebrate our families and friends around a table of delectable foods. Visually Thanksgiving is pumpkins, spice and everything nice. It is sights, smells, tastes and colors that are festive and synonymous with the expression of gratitude. We become more aware and appreciative of what we had, what we have and what we will have – we feel the wonder, the mystery of abundance of everything, every connection outside of ourselves.
Gratitude is a feeling and giving thanks is the way we express that feeling. An attitude of gratitude is directly related to our happiness and helps us build worthwhile relationships. Scientific studies have proven a positive association between our health, our emotional maturity, our happiness and our success at home and in the workplace with gratitude mindfulness and thanks freely given.
Dally Messenger III, the founder of civil Celebrancy in Australia over six decades ago, explained that statistically in Australia, marriages have lasted longer when the couple chose a personalized meaningful ceremony written and performed by specially trained Life-Cycle Celebrants® that included expressions of gratitude for each other and focused on their love story. In effect, these couples are more married!
To be happier and healthier, we need to condition and teach ourselves to be thankful every day not just on Thanksgiving. Focusing on even the teeniest tiniest of blessings as opposed to what we want but don’t have is an exercise that with practice turns our world upside down – in the best of ways.
When your computer is not cooperating, you reboot. Starting each day with a focus on gratitude reboots you mentally to have a better day, knowing that even the seemingly negative has a hidden gift to be thankful for. Let your every day encompass rituals of thankfulness. Make it a habit to wake up with the first thought being that you are glad to be alive, to have the opportunity to be an inspiration or helping hand to someone else.
Today I fully understood the words of William Arthur Ward “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” A couple of things happened that were small but wonderful – at least that is the feeling I got.
The first incident happened on my way out to my car as I rushed to be on time for an appointment. I had a bag of empties that I intended to take to recycle when I saw an elderly oriental gentleman who I had seen countless times in the neighborhood looking for bottles and cans. Without a second thought, I gestured to him and placed them on the ground. He was touched and though he couldn’t speak English, he waited until I backed my car out and bowed to me with a lovely smile on his face. That smile has stuck in my memory all day.
A few hours later I had a home visit from a nurse as I had surgery recently. Not sure how we got on the subject but she shared with me that she had had a double mastectomy and we found ourselves discussing medical tattoos. I had personal experience with an amazing woman in Peterborough Ontario who helps burn victims, breast cancer survivors and other medical cases with her artistry, expertise, and compassion. The nurse was moved to tears to hear my high praise as she was very apprehensive though her doctor had referred her to the same woman. The universe moves in ways beyond our comprehension. These two strangers expressed gratitude to me but I felt gratitude for both encounters – a definite win-win.
Creating a gratitude altar can be a visual reminder of the abundance of good things in your life. Place on it symbols like a cornucopia, your business card, fruits, vegetables, flowers, photos of loved ones, thank you cards, a gratitude journal and a special pen. Include that all clear mammogram report, or perfect blood test results, a book of meditations to read and ponder or prayers like the Bodhisattva Prayer for Humanity to use as a daily gratitude activity to reinforce positive thought in your life.
Bodhisattva Prayer for Humanity
“May I be a guard for those who need protection
A guide for those on the path
A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood
May I be a lamp in the darkness
A resting place for the weary
A healing medicine for all who are sick
A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles
And for the boundless multitudes of living beings
May I bring sustenance and awakening
Enduring like the earth and sky
Until all beings are freed from sorrow
And all are awakened.”
Plan how you can pay it forward to others through gifts of money, articles of clothing or your time. Take frequent opportunities to walk a trail gathering natural items like smooth stones, pine cones, leaves, and vines to create a gratitude Mandala. Start a gratitude coin jar to save for a cause close to your heart. Create a gratitude talisman using that special rock you found and carry it with you in your pocket or your purse. Touch it often and recall moments of gratitude. When you enjoy your morning coffee or tea, tap into a gratitude app that you have downloaded onto your phone – the hardest part will be choosing the perfect app for you.
Should you wish to start your gratitude journey sharing ritual and ceremony with a group of friends and an expert facilitator, contact your local Life-Cycle Celebrant® for expert assistance.
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” Eckhart Tolle