Gratitude in a Time of Thanksgiving

By Jean Usack ~~

The Shambhala Center in Denver opens Sunday morning to the bright eyes and tender hearts of the volunteers and staff who commit each week to the practice of community and meditation. We exchange cheerful salutations and bustle about, readying the Center to open. I tilt my head to observe how precisely one volunteer sets the water for tea to heat. I notice the careful attention another gives to her feet as she carries the flags down the staircase to be raised at the entrance. And when it’s time for the Center to open, I smile at him smiling, the host’s greeting at the door for every member and guest to arrive for practice.

I am grateful to the Center for being the place that holds space for these moments to unfold. And I am grateful for the gifts that everyone to arrive gives to one another by their presence alone. My gratitude is an emotion that when I feel it, time stops. It causes me to rest in the moments to notice, and feel deeply, the joy of being human. For these pleasant experiences, gratitude can be for many of us, automatic. And what I am especially grateful for in the season of Thanksgiving, is for the tougher stuff, the stuff for which gratitude is less automatic.

There were many events in my life this year that challenged me. There was my move across the country, those roots severed and replanted, yet still shallow. There is the recurrent illness of someone close to my heart but far from me now, too far to touch his shoulder and comfort him. There were those nights and days I felt like I was running down a road in the dark without sight to know where to find rest.

So, when a member at our Shambhala community meeting raised his hand to suggest the Center be open for Thanksgiving this year, I noticed the tears in his eyes when he said, “Because, for some people, it’s all they have.” It’s because of the tough stuff that I get to experience the kind of gratitude that comes from deeply feeling the sentiment of his kindness in thinking of others who may be uprooted, floating in the air alone, like me. It is the gratitude I have for the contrast between the tough stuff and his goodness that causes my eyes to up well in tears as I remember it now. Sometimes, it is in the acts of kindness that arise from knowing the hard place that our gratitude can be most deeply felt.

Back at the Center on another Sunday, I open my eyes from meditation to see the sun stream on the glowing face of the Shastri during the Dharma talk. And following that I hear myself laugh through the uplifted stories I get to hear about his life and hers, at CommuniTea. Through the procession of these beautiful nows, I am grateful like moving water over stones, for the Center and the people here that flow right along with me.

This Thanksgiving season, I challenge you to contemplate all the ways you are grateful. I ask you to see what you notice in those moments time pauses for you, that you may deeply experience the joy of being here. May you be blessed and abundant always in all ways.