There are many times that I find myself at a loss for things to say. Maybe the situation is just too complex, and I can’t find a single thought or phrase that is large enough to encompass it all. Or maybe the situation is simple, but my feelings and thoughts are too complex, and saying anything feels like opening a dam when all that’s needed is a cup of tap water. Thoughts, feelings, and memories are funny things, and they can make all of us human beings that live with them act in funny ways. I tend to believe the scientific findings of the last few decades that indicate that we don’t actually have a lot of direct control around what thoughts and feelings arise in us from moment to moment, even if we like to think we do.
The practice of mindfulness has been a hot trend in almost every personal, public, and professional setting lately, and with good cause. For all of the good things people claim it can do for them, at the foundation of it is practicing paying better attention to what is happening inside and around us at the current moment. There are a lot of ways to go about this, depending on what works for a person. Some people prefer breathing exercises, others prefer yoga or tai chi, and others yet find it just staring out the window or saying prayers and reading devotionals. I think probably all of us can think back to a time when, whether intentional or not, we noticed all of the usual thoughts bouncing around the inside of our skulls had gone quiet, and that our senses had become alive.
It is in this state of awareness that we are able to consider our thoughts and feelings from a bigger perspective, and make deliberate choices about how we will behave regarding ourselves and others. I think of Jesus at the Last Supper, knowing what awaited him and still choosing to wash the feet of his disciples, give thanks, share a meal, and admonish them to love one another. His actions stemmed from who he was, and not what his disciples may have deserved in that moment – he knew that some of them weren’t going to be great friends to him in the coming days.
Thanksgiving sounds like a nice idea, but it’s not always as easy as it looks. When we take the time to listen to our inner thoughts and feelings and put them in perspective, though, we find that there is space for service, gratitude, sharing, and love. When we base our sharing of these gifts on whether or not we think others “deserve” it, we grant those others too much power over who we are and how we behave. We can instead choose to practice giving thanks despite the apparent worthiness of others because it is who we are, and how we want to be.