Practicing Thanksgiving – A Balm for the Soul
I recently had to deal with the alarming message on my computer “Your disk is full. Your iCloud drive will not work properly until you free some space.”
I don’t know about you, but this warning seems like a great metaphor for how I feel trying to navigate a global pandemic, a contentious election process that is never ending, and a culture waring against itself through heightened social unrest!
In reality, each of us have a limited emotional bandwidth, and, if we’re honest, there are days when we’ve lost the signal all together. The “normal” lack of margin we have, living in North American culture, has been erased and the effects have been more devastating that we realize. In the classic comedy Tommy Boy, the late actor Chris Farley chimes in, after multiple bizarre and self-inflated painful encounters, “That’s gonna leave a mark!”
It feels like what we are currently experiencing as individuals and as collective humanity is leaving a mark. Through circumstances, created by both decisions of our own choosing, and a plethora of things beyond our control, we have been pulled out of living in the present. We either pine for the way things were, or we hope for a future that seems beyond our reach. Each day we are engaged in a battle of survival. We’re exhausted, stressed out, and fearful that life will never be normal again.
Today I am suggesting that the trauma and loss that we are experiencing is robbing us of something vital to our wellbeing. When we are pulled out of living in in the present moment we lose a primal mooring to one of the most life-generative practices – Thanksgiving.
Research shows that the practice of thanksgiving has efficacy for the following:
• Reducing depression
• Improving self-esteem
• Increasing energy
• Developing a strong immune system
• Decreasing blood pressure.
• Increasing sleep quality
• Increasing ability to cope with negative stress
Beyond these vital personal benefits of embracing life’s moments with thanksgiving, I believe that there is something even more profound we are missing. More than personal prayers, writing down a thankful list in your journal, or stopping to smell the roses, thanksgiving, as an outward practice, is a powerful catalyst for transforming relationships, neighborhoods, and cultures.
What does this look like, you may ask? I believe that every time we offer respect rather than judgment toward someone who is different from us, we are proclaiming thankfulness for who they are as a human being. I believe every time we make the choice to recycle and/or treat the earth with care we are exclaiming thankfulness, both for our environment, and also for others with who we share precious resources. I believe every time we slow down and live in the moment to drink in even the tiniest stream of goodness, and share this with others, we are catalyzing thankfulness that grounds all of us in a sense of being rather than doing.
What is the warning message that is popping up on the screen of your life? What if there is a healing balm for the soul, both yours and the people you come in contact with in your little corner of the world? What if, in all of our searching and thrashing about, we all possess something so simple, accessible, and small that has the power to shed light into this present darkness? What if you and I chose to practice thankfulness in this moment and the next?
Ritch Hochstetler, President and CEO at ULEAD