fallen leaves

On this day of Thanksgiving, I find myself reflecting on gratitude and our relationship to it. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It feels like the only big holiday that doesn’t buy into the commercialism of our materialistic Western culture. It’s not about candy or presents or more, more, MORE. It’s about giving thanks, being with those we love, coming into the heart, and remembering to be grateful for the abundance of blessings in our lives.

The typical Thanksgiving gratitudes are easy. I’m grateful for family—both the family I was born into and the one I’ve chosen. I count my blessings every day for the opportunity to be the mother of my little girl Siena, who is the most extraordinary child, and I would say that even if I weren’t her mother. I’m grateful for the beautiful home where I live, where the redwoods meet the mountains and the ocean and the bounty of nature surrounds me. I’m grateful for the mountain of delicious food I will be offering my loved ones today. I’m grateful for meaningful work, excellent health, and my Tempurpedic mattress, which I rest upon as I write this (yes, it’s one of my deepest gratitudes and no, they’re not paying me to say this!) I’m grateful for my deepening relationship with the Divine and all the fulfillment and meaning that accompanies my spiritual development.

“Radical Gratitudes”

But I’m also grateful for what I call the “radical gratitudes,” and I’m curious whether you’re grateful for these sorts of things as well. Radical gratitude emerges when you face challenges that grow your soul, the ones that push all your buttons, and help you see your growth edges. Your radical gratitude might not seem worthy of gratitude at first, but if you experience such things through the lens of your soul, you’ll realize that your soul is high-fiving you, even as your Small Self might feel wounded or victimized.

For example, this year I’m grateful for divorce mediation. As Tosha Silver helped me realize (and as I described here), my divorce was a beautiful reminder to eliminate the word “my” from my vocabulary. The process triggered an attack of my Small Self, which vied for possession and was reacting out of fear until Tosha reminded me that none of the blessings in my life were mine. It wasn’t “my” house or “my” books or “my business” or “my” daughter. As Tosha said, “Lissa, you wouldn’t have shit if it weren’t for God’s largess.” I had to release everything my ego thought it “owned” so I could get into the mindset of “God’s” books, “God’s” business, “God’s” little girl. Then, with my soul at the wheel in divorce meditation, we quickly came to a peaceful and fair settlement. Tosha said I passed the “final exam” of surrender by my willingness to turn my divorce over to the Divine and trust the highest, in whatever form that might how up. It wasn’t easy, but I’m grateful.

I’m also grateful for the conflict I’m having right now with my best friend. I’m scared of losing my friend, so it’s triggering another Small Self attack. But we’re learning so much about ourselves and each other. The conflict is illuminating all these blind spots for us both, so our souls are growing, even as our Small Selves defend and position for who is “right.” So I’m grateful. I give thanks for the soul growth. And I give thanks for my best friend, who I adore and who I trust will grow with me into a new deepening of our soul friendship.

The Gratitude Final Exam

It’s easy to be grateful for the things that comfort us or even feed the Small Self. And there’s nothing wrong with these kinds of gratitudes. They feel yummy and they’re warm and tender and repair the heart. But if you can also find it in your heart to be grateful for the challenges in your life, the ones that grow your soul, you will free yourself from suffering. No joke.

Can you give thanks for the mother who abandoned you? Can you be grateful for the father who molested you? Can you see the blessing in the loved one you lost or the bankruptcy or the betrayal from your spouse? Can you be grateful for the rape or the heartbreak or the cancer? Can you be grateful for getting fired or mounting debt or the chronic pain? Can you be grateful for the dream that didn’t come true?

Can you see how these things grew you? Can you see how, once you moved beyond your victimhood, you were able to glean the gifts of such traumas? Can you see how they helped strengthen you, how you learned forgiveness and self-reliance and compassion? Can you see how you came to appreciate the preciousness of life, how you fought for life, even when part of you wanted to give up? Can you see how you learned what was really important to you, how you learned to stand up for yourself, how you grew in your intuition? Can you see how you stopped basing your value on approval and started to realize that you are inherently valuable because you have within you a Divine spark—and this makes you inherently valuable?

Can you see how you were broken open by these tragedies and challenges, and how the cracks in your ego allowed the light to shine through you? Can you see how you would have been different if these things hadn’t happened? Can you see how they shaped who you are? Can you be grateful for the glorious, magnificent being that you are right here, right now? Can you see how you wouldn’t be this person if you hadn’t experienced what you did? Can you be grateful for it all? Can you give thanks—radical thanks?

These are the final exams of radical gratitude. If you can get to the place where you’re grateful for all of it, where you see adversity as an opportunity for soul growth, as curriculum for the soul, you free yourself. And miracles start to happen.

The Frequency of Miracles

Martha Beck says “Acceptance is the frequency of miracles,” and I think it’s true. And when you can move beyond mere acceptance—releasing your resistance to what is and going even deeper—into gratitude, the miracles come at lightning speed. As A Course in Miracles teaches, every time we choose love over fear, a miracle happens. And that’s what I’m asking of you this Thanksgiving day.

Will you choose to be grateful for it all? If you say yes, a miracle happens . . .

Love,

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4 Comments

  1. Cat

    Love this post. I once heard Stephen Colbert interviewed about the death of his father and two of his brothers in a plane crash when Stephen was young. When asked how he felt about it now, he said that he was grateful. I have moments when I’m able to feel gratitude for my crazy dysfunctional family, and for how the experience of all that pushed me onto a path that most would not venture down, but I admit it’s still something I struggle with. But I’m gonna keep gratitude in mind as I head out for thanksgiving dinner in the land of crazy. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Lissa. You totally rock!

    Reply
  2. Susanne Menge

    YES!
    Thank you for this beautiful expression, LIssa. I am truly grateful for it all!

    Reply
  3. Irene Heit

    I am grateful for divorce too because it lead me to true love! I like your reminder to take “my” out of it because of the ego. So easy to mindlessly use my this or that when it’s not necessary. Thank you for your reflections on gratitude because it was profound.

    Reply
  4. T. L. Parks

    Radical gratitude-I’m thankful, for sitting here on my birthday, and feeling, sensing, and knowing that I am surrounded by people that I’ve known for a very long time, and yet I no longer feel any sense of connection with. And though, I’m counting the minutes to be out of here, so I can go have a good cry…I also celebrate those who have been in my life, who knew and comforted me through many stages. I am grateful for the awareness that appreciates it all, gathers the lessons…and has the courage to seek and face a new day.

    Reply

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