Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks for the blessings received during the year. It can also be a time for reflecting on the bounty of the Earth. Now that we have access to food year round, we can feel disconnected from this aspect of Thanksgiving. After all, you can find pumpkin pie at a diner in summer, or order sliced roast turkey at a deli in the spring. Feeling gratitude for the riches of the earth, which supports all life, reminds us that even when we’re feeling a sense of lack or scarcity, the Earth graces us with food, water, land on which to build shelter, and more.
Thanksgiving can also be a time for us to reflect on all that we are grateful for and to express our gratitude to others. In fact, doing so can have a positive effect not just on others but also ourselves. In a recent New York Times article, John Tierney suggests that “an attitude of gratitude” can lead to many mental and physical health benefits. Expressing gratitude can connect us to others and promote friendship, community, and stronger relationships. It’s easy to forget the importance of not just feeling but expressing thanks.
Tierney cites research about the value of cultivating an attitude of gratitude by establishing a weekly practice of writing down five things for which you are grateful. Of course, you can also use Thanksgiving as a time to explicitly express gratitude to the people around you, including family members. You can also incorporate into your Thanksgiving ritual gratitude toward the Earth itself.
In my work as a shamanic practitioner, I’ve performed ceremonies such as the traditional Q’ero despacho ceremony that offer an opportunity to thank the Earth for her abundant gifts to us and to thank others for what they bring to our lives. As part of a despacho ceremony, which I learned from native people in Peru and which has several components, participants pass around stacks of three coca leaves into which they blow prayers of gratitude and prayers for themselves and others. Around your Thanksgiving dinner table, or on Thanksgiving day, you might establish a ritual of gratitude that acknowledges the relationships you value, including relationships with other people, nature, the Earth, and Source (however you think about this divine force some call God or Spirit). You might give thanks for the abundance of health, wealth, and wisdom you have acquired. You could pass a stack of three bay leaves around the Thanksgiving table and have each person blow into them prayers of gratitude as well as prayers for others and for the Earth and your community. Then, when everyone gathered has had a chance to blow prayers into the stacks of leaves, you can bury the leaves in the Earth. The prayers will be released to Spirit as the organic material is absorbed by the soil. From there, the prayers might lead to a harvest of blessings.
What are you thankful for at this season of Thanksgiving? What rituals of gratitude might you perform to express your thanks? What Thanksgiving prayers will you say?
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