In order to get to the heart of gratitude, you have to come to terms with change. Its in the seasons of change that gratitude is found.

I didn’t know what a season was until I moved to Michigan. Where I grew up in Sydney, Australia, there are two seasons; summer and summer with a sweater on. Of course I complained about the cold when the temperature dipped below 50 degrees, but realized how silly this was when I moved to Michigan and experienced a true winter; with frozen rain and ice waves on the Lake.

I quickly grew to appreciate the four distinct northern seasons. It creates a completely different rhythm in your life; nesting, playing and hunkering down. Even the standard four seasons are arbitrary compared to many earth based cultures.  In Australia, Aborigines have a completely different sense of time and seasons. Rather than living “by the clock” in hours and minutes, they live by their senses and seasons, following nature’s lead. They had multiple seasons. They recognized the gift of nature, and the different gifts that each season brought.

What can we learn from them? Australian Aborigines are thought to be the oldest living culture in the world- between 50,000 and 65,000 years old. One of the reasons they have survived so long is their ability to adapt and change. I have always been struck by their connection to place and yet they were constantly on the move. They moved camp according to the seasons and each camp was sacred ground. This meant they were always grounded. Adaptability is key to change, and gratitude is key to adaptability because you see the gift in every time and place.

If we keep Thanksgiving connected to the change of seasons, and the gifts of the earth, we ground ourselves in gratitude.

The turning of seasons is an awesome time to reflect on the gifts of change. Be grateful for all that was, all that is, and all that is to come. Give thanks for blessings that have passed your way and moved on, blessings that are still on their way and blessings in disguise. You are learning, growing, forgiving, hoping, creating, dreaming and so much more. Remember where you’ve been, know who you are, and imagine what’s ahead, and immerse yourself in gratitude. Each season has its purpose. Every change brings gifts. Be thankful for the adventure of being alive in an ever changing world.

True gratitude is to stand in the midst of life with an open mind, an open heart and open hands, and embrace the adventure of being human that can’t be controlled or contained by our limited perspectives. Give thanks for mystery. Give thanks for uncertainty. Give thanks for change. And give thanks for the privilege of participating in ALL of life.

It’s an approach to gratitude that enables you to appreciate ALL of life. You can be honest and real and still live with optimism. Appreciate ALL of your humanity in its variety and the constant evolution of life. Let it all be what it is, and don’t hide or run away. The surprise of events that appear as if from nowhere remind you that life is always changing and YOU are one of the links in the mysterious chain of all things. It starts as surprise, sometimes includes apprehension, continues as gratitude and manifests as optimism and trust.

Without uncertainty, there would be no such thing as clarity, those precious moments of peace. Without confusion, there would be no opportunity to push yourself to deeper understandings. Without chaos, there would be no opportunity to find your still, small inner voice.  Without darkness, light would have no meaning. Without doubt, there would be no opportunity to leap into the unknown from which some of your greatest opportunities arise. Give thanks for it all.

Its tempting to think of gratitude as just being connected to the positive experiences; things that bring instant pleasure. Or else, at times we bend over backwards trying to find a positive perspective in the difficult times. To me, that is part of gratitude but not the whole story. To be sure, part of the problem is that we expect life to follow our expectations and timeline.

Yet for a profound and lasting experience of gratitude, expand your perspective. Get beyond the shallow separation of life into positive and negative, joy and pain. Move beyond gratitude as an emotion that changes according to circumstance. Seek a gratitude that rides the adventure of ALL moments. Its an attitude, an orientation to life that is open, accepting and curious.

This Thanksgiving, be grateful for all the seasons of life, the doubt and uncertainty as well as the clarity and peace. I guess life is good after all, even the parts that aren’t.

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  1. Phillip says:

    Marvellous words of advice, as always, Ian, & something from which we could all learn, especially in our  consumeristic cultures. Meister Ekhart of course is purported to have said ” if the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you’ that would suffice”. Thanks, once again.  

  2. Joan Cook says:

    I think you have lived with an open mind and heart for so long, Ian, that you forget how much courage it takes to live that way.  Or maybe you were one of those delightfully vulnerable children who never knew any other way to face the world, except to look it right in the eye and say, “why?”

  3. Claudell County says:

    Henry Winkler, the Fonz, at the Macy’s parade, yesterday, said he was grateful for the Thanksgiving late night sandwich of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce.  Personally I can’t imaging it, but I do appreciate not having to cook for a full three days (if I remember to make enough of everything to last for three days.)

    Someday my dream is to have a cook, secretarial, and clothes maid -who is my equal- and loves to exchange these services for the meditations, spiritual practices and music from which I serve them – as well as a place to live.  Might be interesting to contemplate this.

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