How wonderful it is that our country has one day a year dedicated to giving thanks! Do other cultures have such a day? Of course our Thanksgiving day started on "shaky ground" what with the pilgrims taking land from the Native Americans after thanking them. But that was then. What about now?
Thankfully, Thanksgiving is one of the least commercial holidays (except for all those turkeys giving their lives so we can enjoy traditional meals with our families and loved ones). But how many Thanksgiving cards do you send? How many Thanksgiving presents do you receive? How many Thanksgiving trinkets do you strew about your house, hang over your door or tack on your mantle? Little to none, I'll bet.
When our extended family gathers about the dining table before our Thanksgiving meal and shares what each of us is thankful for, I am most touched by this. Such an experience is beautiful, indeed, yet I've learned that giving thanks is far more important than just paying it tribute one day a year. In fact, it is one of the most important things we can do at any time and on any day.
When we are most emotional, stressed or mad, giving thanks is the best way to quickly shift our energies. Even at our darkest hours there's always something we can thank '" the beauty of a flower, the joy of a pet, even the air that we breathe. Just focusing on the smallest of things with gratefulness can alter perspectives and make life livable again.
I learned a wonderful thanks- giving ritual from one of my shamanic teachers, Linda Fitch. She taught me to create a traditional Peruvian offering by using two natural materials (such as pebbles, leaves, flowers, shells). The first item is set down for thanks to the earth, while the second is set on top of the first for thanks to the sky. Making ten of these little "cairn" offerings throughout the day for two to three weeks is a great way to shift one's perspective from complaining and blaming to honoring and gratitude.
Another great thanks-giving ritual is one I gained from observing my yoga teacher, Baba Hari Dass. Before he eats every meal, he first takes a tiny bite of each item on his plate and lovingly sets it to the side. Then he proceeds to eat the rest of his food. When once asked why he did this mealtime ritual, he said that he was offering his food to the Divine. I thought this a beautiful reminder and ever since, I try do the same (in all honesty, when I remember, that is).
Perhaps the thanks l I feel most in my heart right now is for honoring my teachers. I know I wouldn't be where I am today without the many fabulous teachers I've had in my life. I've been fortunate to have had teachers who have broadened the landscape of my mind, heart and soul, and these are the ones I'm especially thanks-filled for right now: my parents and siblings, Lee, Jon and Dave, Sam, Parvati, Mariah, Grandmother Eve, Baba Hari Dass, Michael, Beth, Linda and Alberto.
I'm also thankful for Jill Agnello as our incredible administrator of the East West Herb Course. Such gifted abilities, dedication and meticulousness are rare and we are fortunate indeed to be walking this path together. As well, I'm thankful for Ben Zappin as our insightful lesson test manager, Anne de Courtenay for her fabulous web, artistic and editing skills, Kathy Long for creating such a beautiful new website, and all our teachers, mentors, EWCH graduates and herb students, all of whom keep herbalism alive and well in the world today.
Perhaps one of the greatest lessons I've learned about thanks-giving I garnered over 27 years ago from my friend Jeannine Parvati Baker. I'll never forget one of her classes when she held up a beautiful tin box and looked as if she was about to share her most treasured secret. Carefully she passed the box for us to open, saying she kept this traveling altar to constantly remember and honor her most important teachers.
One by one we each opened the box, looked inside and carefully closed the lid. I listened to all the gasps as the tin went about the circle, so curious and in awe of who must be her incredible teachers. Finally the box came to me and it was with great anticipation that I lifted the lid to learn the precious secret inside.
I was not disappointed. My jaw dropped in shocked amazement (it really did! It's not just hyperbole!). Inside was not the photo of a guru, or a saint, or some famous, gifted person. Rather, inside the box, on top of a nest of rose petals and sage, rested photos of her entire family '" her husband and each of her children.
I couldn't help but gasp myself. At the time my attention had been given to worldly teachers on the outside, but this altar made me realize that my most important teachers surround me in my intimate life.
And so I now I wish to honor my supreme teachers with all the thanks in my heart:
Imagine I carefully hold a tin box in my hands.
Imagine that you take the box, lift the lid and peek inside.
Then within you see the photos of my greatest teachers
'" my husband, Michael and my son, Chetan '"
along with this message:
"You have both given me the greatest lessons and growth possible
in this life and for this I will be forever thankful!
In great humbleness I honor you both."
I wish Parvati was still alive today so I could thank her for helping me recognize and honor my truest teachers. But when I think of that, I realize her not being here is also a gift, for it's important to say thank you NOW; you never know when you'll have the opportunity again.
So as we approach Thanksgiving, I urge everyone to extend this cyclical holiday and bring thanks-giving into your daily life. Whatever ritual you choose to perform, intention, gratitude and heart are what matter most.