Thanksgiving is here, and many of us will be spending time in the kitchen, preparing to give thanks. We’ll be cooking, going to visit those we care for and also those we may have trouble with. But we’ll all be together at the kitchen table. What a wonderful gathering, especially when it’s dedicated to joining together to give thanks.
When people ask who is the most blessed person of all, the scriptures tell us, “One who gives thanks all day long.” They constantly appreciate, praise and give thanks for everything in life. Good and bad. For each breath, each moment.
Give Thanks Constantly
What a beautiful practice – to give thanks constantly. We’ve dedicated a day a year to Thanksgiving. How wonderful it would be to dedicate many days a year to give thanks for everything, for the sky, the rain, the people we meet, each breath we’re granted. Can you imagine what it would be like if whomever we met, under whatever circumstance, we gave thanks to them. Everyone.
It has to be a real thanks though. There’s a difference between thank you that’s said automatically, superficially. That often leaves a person more hollow than before. It can even give them a chill. We all really want to give and receive true thanks. A real thanks is from the heart and we immediately feel it.
“Words From The Heart Go Into the Heart”
First we have to connect with our own heart in order to speak from the heart.
That itself will heal us, others, and ultimately the whole world. So many of us keep thinking what can I do to help? The task can seem overwhelming, with the tremendous disarray going on. But simple steps can help a great deal because there’s a greater love and harmony beneath us all. And it’s available for us all the time. We just have to tap into it – from the heart. Tap into it and live it.
The teachings of Zen emphasize that we must actually live them. Not just talk or read about it. Reading can become a substitute for living and doing. Instead we must digest, absorb and actually live the truth. That’s the central point.
And if everybody lived the practice of giving thanks much struggle and upset would melt away. Wherever they went they would naturally see a moment of practice beckoning them. A moment to give thanks. One after another.
Much of the time we don’t even think we have any reason to be grateful for. We’re always focusing on what’s hard and what’s going wrong, what’s disappointing. That’s how the brain is wired, it seems. But practice is looking at the world through brand new eyes, seeing it as a gift. And as we practice more and more, we just naturally want to give thanks. We’re so filled with appreciation. That’s a beautiful fruit of practice when it’s sincere.
Sincerity is so important, and is something that can be easily lost when everything is virtual and we may feel disconnected from who is actually there. When we feel disconnected from the moment, themselves, and what’s happening, a sincere moment turns that all around. A wholehearted moment is a beautiful way of giving thanks.
We don’t give thanks just with our words, we give thanks by being who we are, how we appear, and respond to others. Even planting a wonderful garden is a way of giving thanks. There are many ways. You are probably giving thanks all over the place and don’t even realize it.
Giving Thanks Dissolves Separation
We create so many divisions by the way we think, by the way we separate ourselves from one another and from the divine that fulfills our hearts and makes our day beautiful. But that’s available all the time. That’s why we can easily find it at the kitchen table. A place of nurturing and warmth.
Nobody Is Left Out
Nobody is left out of this feast and banquet of life. If you’re here, you’re not left out. Yet so many of us feel excluded, unwanted, rejected. So many say I don’t belong. But the truth is, nobody is left out. We leave ourselves out. We reject ourselves. We reject the group. We reject others. And then we say we’re left out of the meal. But the doors are open.
Walk Through The Open Door
My teacher once said, “The doors are wide open. Walk through. Why doesn’t anyone try that method.”
The doors are wide open to the kitchen table. Why don’t we just walk in and help with the cooking? Prepare the feast. Welcome others to the meal. Be kind to those who are there. This is a very, very important principle in the eternal teachings.
It’s also called charity, which means open heartedness. Charity doesn’t mean I have more and you have less and you’re lucky if I give it to you. That’s not charity, no. True charity is an open heart and everybody together equal, sharing. Nobody’s up, nobody’s down. Nobody is shamed.
At the kitchen table, there’s plenty of food for all, plenty of nourishment for all. And yet so many feel that they don’t have the nourishment they need. They lack this or that. There’s not enough for all. In fact some people think we have to kill many off because there’s not enough for everybody. Truly misguided and awful.
This universe, and God provide constantly. We just don’t realize that we must also be providers of nourishment to others.
“Feeding Others We Are Fed”
We are fed as we provide nourishment. We simultaneously give and receive.
The biggest gift is to be able to give with an open, sincere heart. Nothing feels better. Try it out and see. These principles may be counterintuitive and different from what we normally believe. All these old beliefs can harden us to the core. Such as, there’s not enough, I’ve gonna get it first. You don’t deserve it. I do.
Seeds of Pain
Believing those kinds of thoughts, we are planting seeds of pain. Let’s plant seeds of flowers, and fruits, delicious life-giving produce. Then we must weed the garden, pull out the seeds of pain that will cause inevitable pain. Those hardened beliefs that hurt us and others.
One seed can produce a lot of fruit. So, when you go to your Thanksgiving gathering, even if it’s just one person there, plant seeds of joy and delight. Even if you may be alone.
Being alone is a beautiful opportunity to realize that we’re never alone. Never. Even if we are physically by ourselves, can’t get out or go visiting. Whatever our Thanksgiving table consists of, if we are willing to offer thanks now, we are not alone.
Instead of being upset, or angry, offer thanks to the universe, and think of all
the people throughout your life to be grateful for. Thank them now. Rejoice in your life. That kind of attitude is so uplifting, before long you will realize there are many unseen visitors at your Thanksgiving table.
Many unseen visitors are always with us, perhaps unrecognized, unnoticed.
They may be living in our heart, in our mind, in our memory, in other dimensions.
We’re not abandoned unless we think we are. We can also just take a walk on the street and say hello or smile at others out there who may also be walking alone. There are many possibilities. Prepare a little Thanksgiving food or gift for others who don’t have it. You certainly won’t be alone then.
This process of finding God at the kitchen table, finding love, companionship, connection, meaning and nourishment is a beautiful practice that is available to all.
Brenda Shoshanna, Ph.d. is an award winning author, speaker, psychologist and long term Zen practitioner. Her work integrates the teachings of East and West and focuses upon how to make the teachings real in our everyday lives. She offers talks, workshops and a weekly podcast, Finding God At The Kitchen Table (Zen Wisdom for Your Everyday Life). www.zenwisdomtoday.com . Her most recent workshop program is Finding God At The Kitchen Table, www.theonetent.com. She is offering a workshop on it this December on Zoom. Contact her for more information at email@example.com