For a More Gentle & Joyful Holiday Season
Thanksgiving evening at home in Vershire was quiet and relaxing, and last night I listened to a program on VPR on the Science of Gratitude. Perhaps it wasn't too surprizing to learn that gratitude can improve health, relationships, even learning and working, but it's always nice to have a reminder now and then. Things like gratitude, compassion and mindfulness are not extras or questionable practices, they're vital to our well-being and our communities. We're hard-wired to cooperate and value one another just as much as to compete and look out for number one.
Thanksgiving may be many things to many people, and some of them quite controversial in these times, but the common ground of this holiday is humble, loving gratefulness. It's an auspicious way to begin a holiday season that can range from depressing to exhilarating, from the most materialistic and commercial to the most spiritual and sublime, from the most focused inward on ourselves, our families and communities to the most global sense of one family of humanity. For many folks Thanksgiving has become less about celebrating something that happened in the past (think stereotyped Pilgrims and Indians) and more about being present in this moment, appreciating the blessings or fortune or abundance in our lives now. It's a time of pause and reflection before looking forward. The emphasis is on sharing the harvest, whether it's purchased at the store or brought in from our our gardens and barnyards or even hunted or gathered in forests and fields, and on home, family and community.
There's an abruptness to the transition from simple Thanksgiving to the Christmas-Hannukah-Kwanzaa-Solstice-New Year festivities known now as simply The Holidays to include everyone and all traditions celebrated at this time of year. Considering the gravitas of Thanksgiving, even if it's only highlighted at that moment when all gather around the table and descend into a momentary hush and prayer, this could be a more profound and lasting moment that lingers through the weekend at least, and infuses the month of December with a glow that comes not only from candy canes and bulging stockings, glitter and bustle, but from a growing generosity that finds its foundations in practices of gratitude begun or renewed at Thanksgiving.
The practice of keeping a Gratitude Journal was shared by several participants in the Science of Gratitude program as a power tool for healing, personal growth, fulfillment and success. Many studies were cited that show the power of this simple tool, and others that may seem familiar and can easily become good habits now, thereby also reducing the number of New Year's resolutions necessary to start the coming year! A Gratitude Journal or bulletin board or special jar with daily notes of gratitude could occupy a prominent place next to the advent calendar or menorah or stockings to segue from Thanksgiving into the rest of the Holiday Season more gently while retaining the reverence for the support, resources and prosperity in our lives.
Gratitude and generosity are also connected. Focusing on what we're thankful for encourages us to feel more magnanimous, less deprived or aware of what we're lacking, more like we have some abundance to share, even if it is only kindness. And being generous, whether through gifting, helping or being there for someone in need can foster a feeling of gratitude for our own good fortune, enjoying the sense that there is enough time, money or caring to share with another. Thus Thanksgiving flows into the sacred and secular winter holidays more smoothly, with gratitude and generosity forming a rhythm and harmony that can help anchor us in a time of heightened activity, financial pressures, busy schedules as well as cheer and celebration.
Let's write this Gratitude Journal together. Today, I'm thinking of just a few of the things I'm grateful for in Vershire. The beauty of the the mist in the mountains. The little homestead where my family can gather. The expert care with which our road crew maintains our roads, already spreading a new layer of sand on the dirt road now covered with snow. The neighbors and strangers who have pulled my car out of a ditch more than once. Community meals and events that welcome everyone, including often three or four generations. The volunteer Fire & Rescue department that is always on hand when help is needed. The many community volunteers who offer so much time and talent. The amazing history of our town and the keepers of those stories and artifacts. The teachers and caregivers who raise the next generation with respect, safety and encouragement. This is only just the tiniest start of things we can be grateful for in Vershire. I invite you to add to the list either in the comments below or on the Vershire Buzz Facebook page.
Finally, I am so grateful to dailyUV.com for giving our town this voice in the Upper Valley and online, and to the readers who benefit from these posts and enjoy them. I am listening to you too, so feel free to contribute. I especially want to hear from people I don't know and about things in Vershire that I don't ordinarily come across, so please let me know who you are and what's going on! Thank you...
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