If the number of blog posts that I have written about Thanksgiving are a good measure, then it is an open secret that this is my favorite American holiday. The confluence of many events after my arrival here in the fall for graduate studies, led to a heart-warning introduction to this family-first holiday of “giving thanks”. Even though the holiday itself was “all new” to me, the notion of giving thanks felt as old as the hills.
It reminded me of two words – the first being dhanyavaad – the formal expression of thanks in India. It is a combination of two words, dhanya, meaning blessed or most fortunate, and vaad meaning, an event or a happening. The second, somewhat informal word expressing thanks often used in India is shukriya – a combination of shu-bh meaning auspicious, and kriya meaning action or practice.
It ought to be no surprise that the words used in the expression of gratitude are similar across languages. The very sound of a heartfelt “thank you” or “gracias” or “merci” or “shukriya” is often music for our hearts. When the music of thanksgiving creates harmony, it brings joy to the giver and the receiver. So, with these apparent benefits, what possible challenge(s) could there be in the path of our practice of gratitude?
The first challenge is that we are much more open to giving thanks to others than receiving it. We somehow carry around the notion that we are perhaps undeserving of others’ gratitude. The second notion is that “no thanks is due” because we are simply “doing our duty” and that we are best off doing it without any expectation of reward and such. The third notion is that if we accept it from them, we are somehow bound into reciprocity. Do you identify with any of these notions of receiving gratitude?
The second challenge is that we are unsure of the who, why, how, when and where of giving thanks to others. In a world where our offline relationships are getting lesser and lesser time, space and engagement, we are perhaps losing the opportunity to practice the art of saying thanks. Or maybe we don’t have enough role models in our communities who give thanks with grace and unfettered joy. Who was a role model for “giving thanks” for you? For me, it was my maternal grandmother. I don’t know that I remember her saying “dhanyavad” or “shukriya” very often, but her actions spoke volumes. A slight smile, a gentle tilt of the head, a leaning in during conversation- they all felt like she was giving gratitude with every action, in every engagement.
The third challenge in our gratitude practice is the notion that we don’t have “enough”. The great irony that “Black Friday” comes earlier and earlier every year may not be lost on many of us. To my mind, it is simply an outsized attempt to somehow convince us of the “lack” in our lives.
But I have news for you. The first part of the Heartfulness meditation practice is “relaxation”. The intent is to creates awareness of our body, in the form of a slow scan beginning from the toes, traveling through several parts of the lower and upper body, to the crown of the head. As I did the relaxation this morning, I became aware, and thankful, for the mere presence and good health of every single one of my body’s internal and external organs. The gratitude that swept through me after I was done, was a bit overwhelming. Try it. It will only take a few minutes, and you can do it wherever you are. Repeat this ‘relaxation into gratitude’ exercise often, and it will become a portable resource that you can take with you.
So, here we are. Thanksgiving is here again. Maybe we will continue to work our challenges, of giving, of receiving, of (lack of? too much?) abundance. So that the day of, and the days before and after Thanksgiving will bring us a series of opportunities to experience dhanyavaad or gratitude-filled interactions.
P.S. Join the #SpiritChat community on Twitter for our weekly chat – Sunday, November 18 at 9amET / 730pm India ~ shukriya and Happy Thanksgiving!