Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because the whole point of this holiday is invoking a tender emotion—gratitude—that has been known in both spiritual traditions and science to open the heart, relax the nervous system, improve health, and deepen intimacy with our loved ones and the Divine. As Thanksgiving approaches, we pause, gather with our loved ones, and focus on giving thanks. It’s easy to be grateful for the yummy things in life—the child when she’s sleeping, a beloved’s sweet kiss, the sunset, the moonrise, and the feeling of joy in our hearts when our Soul Tribe is all around us, our hearts open, our voices raised in song, our feet swaying with dance. But the real practice comes when we can feel grateful even for life’s initiations, those challenging experiences that have the opportunity to either blow our hearts open or slam them shut.

How might we all practice this kind of radical gratitude this Thanksgiving?

I experienced a lot of initiatory trauma and loss this year. How can I invoke gratitude for the dog bite that took a chunk out of my leg in April? How can I find gratitude for losing my beloved mother and spending this first Thanksgiving without her? How can I experience the heart-opening of gratitude for the break up with my boyfriend in the midst of all this other grief?

It’s not easy to feel grateful when you feel pain. It’s important to realize that we can’t skip the pain with spiritual bypassing techniques like premature gratitude. We have to feel the hurt, letting the grief and anger move through us. We have to seek help healing from our traumas. But it IS possible to hold a paradox. I can feel grief and gratitude at the same time. I can feel sad that my mother is no longer here with me in body, and I can feel grateful that her loss is breaking open my heart to even deeper levels of unconditional love. I can give thanks for the power that is rising in me as I ask myself, “Who am I now that Trish Rankin is not on this earth?” And . . . it still hurts.

One of my spiritual mentors gave me a mantra that helped me through my pit bull attack. Right after the dog mauled me, when I was in agonizing pain, I started chanting my mantra—Thank you for this gift of love. The mind calls “Bullshit” when you do this. “This is not a gift of love!” it screams. “This is a disaster! This hurts! What if I lose my leg? What’s going to happen next?” The mind prattles on with all of its fear and anxiety in the face of pain and uncertainty.

But some deeper part of you knows that there will be goodies riding shotgun with fear, pain, and uncertainty. Can we be grateful for the goodies before we even know what they are?

Many of us can look back at traumas and losses and see how much we grew as souls, how we learned resilience, how we had to rely upon our strength and our faith, how our tribes showed up for us, or how we learned to set boundaries and love ourselves. But we don’t have to wait for the clarity of the “retrospectoscope.” .It’s possible to practice radical gratitude for even life’s painful experiences—right in the moment when they’re happening. You don’t have to bypass the painful feelings one bit in order to feel the gratitude. You can hold the pain and the gratitude right next to each other—the poison and its antidote—in paradox.

Because I use this mantra “Thank you for this gift of love” so routinely now, my dear friend, musician Karen Drucker, wrote me a song to bring this mantra to life. As our gift to you this Thanksgiving, let us introduce this music video so you might adopt this mantra for yourself this year.

If you’d like to download the free MP3 of this song, just enter your email here and Karen and I will gift you this song as an offering of our Thanksgiving and a prayer that you are able to invoke radical gratitude for yourself.

Much love and infinite thanks,

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  1. Dear Lissa, Thank you for your post. I always find it so sad that for most people gratitude involves eating the flesh of fellow-earthlings. I don’t like Thanksgiving and Christmas because of all the killing and waste it involves. I’d like to invite everybody to enjoy this photo of Esther the Wonder Pig and her friend Cornelius the Turkey and one of her two Dads:
    May all beings be happy and loved.
    Love from Frid

    • Dear Friderike, It is interesting to note that all plant life has an incredible intelligence. They ‘feel’ pain when they are injured or harvested. Each time I peel a potato, munch on a piece of toast, eat lettuce from our garden, or soak a kidney bean, I give thanks and enormous gratitude to these plants that have been killed and sacrificed so that I may continue to thrive and live. Same thing with the flesh of animals and birds. So I agree with you. Let’s stop all of this killing and waste of these magnificent plants and animals.

      For a discussion on the research of the electrical activity and circadian rhythms of trees, for example, please go to:


      In the meantime, have a happy American Thanksgiving and enjoy your dinner of ????

      Just sayin’……..


      • I’m with you Verna. After I saw the singing plants at Crystal Castle in Byron Bay and Damanhur in Italy, I was like “OMG, all food has consciousness!” The woman sitting next to me as the plants made this screeching sound when a torch came near them said, “Oh jeez. I’m already a vegetarian, but now I’ll have to become a breatharian because my salad has FEELINGS.” I take the indigenous perspective- all matter is alive and conscious, and we must give thanks and humbly receive the gift of nourishment from anything we eat, whether it has a face or not.

        Happy Thanksgiving, whatever your soul guides you to eat, dear ones.


      • I agree with you that plants are much more than we take note of. That is why you have to think twice about felling a tree and we should always grow plants with respect etc. (No more spraying with pesticides etc, etc.) However, they don’t have a central nervous system. – And if you eat an apple that fell off the tree and is sure to rot, you do no harm by eating it. Surely you will not compare biting into an apple to torturing and murdering an animal? Take a knife, apply it to an apple/carrot/potatoe/leaf of kale … and try to apply it to an animal. You will notice a difference. Smell an apple after it has been cut and then look at an animal after it has been cut. You will agree that there is a difference. Also, if you care so much about plants (and I am glad you do), wouldn’t it make more sense to avoid all animal products, since ever so many more plants die as a result of animal agriculture? Please watch Earthlings, Cowspiracy, and Forks Over Knives and then tell me whether you are still holding on to the idea that eating veggies is just as bad as eating animals. – I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving any more. But I give thanks to my food on most days.

  2. The greatest gift that I have received from you, dear Lissa, over and over again, is that soothing feeling of inner peace that radiates from your words and communicates directly to my soul. It happens through your books, that Inner Pilot Light message that puts a smile on my face and warmth in my heart every weekday evening when it comes into my inbox, a FB or blog post. Every time I find myself tired from life, your words touch me again and gently remind me of my journey. What a gift you are to this world! Thank you. <3

    • Thank you!

  3. You continue to inspire me, challenge me gently and lift me up. You have been a balm to soothe my bruised soul during my health challenges. Thank you.

  4. Lissa’s message “I take the indigenous perspective- all matter is alive and conscious, and we must give thanks and humbly receive the gift of nourishment from anything we eat, whether it has a face or not”…..and…..”whatever your soul guides you to eat” makes the most sense to me.

    At our country home, wild grouse sometimes hit the windows of the house and die immediately (is this like the apple falling to the ground?). When we hear this happen, we harvest the grouse meat and receive this gift of nourishment – along with the many vegetables that we plant and tend and love.

    In selecting our various points of view based on ‘whatever’, we do indeed pick and choose that which makes each individual feel comfortable in his or her own heart, soul and mind. That’s just the way it is. It is so easy to throw stones, isn’t it?

  5. Thank you.


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