Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.
SO somewhere in the midst of all the turkey-stuffing and the pie-making and the champagne-drinking and the Jackman-watching and the buying-nothing this week, there's a little something about thanks-giving going on. And even though we usually take a few obligatory moments to acknowledge what we're grateful for (blue nail polish made the list for me for several years in a row in the late 90's; now, it's usually more like plants and babies and my own juicer), that brief moment of consciousness is quickly eclipsed by the initial dive into the sliced tofurkey.
Philip Moffitt, always reliable for some sage wisdom, has an old piece on gratitude that was highlighted in my YJ newsletter the other day. And it's worth your time. The thing is, it's not this cheesy Pollyanna shit about being grateful for mashed potatoes or whatever, but it's about the deeply serious tradition of mindfulness and the gravity and calm of gratitude in the midst of suffering. Read this blurb:
Let me be clear: The practice of gratitude is not in any way a denial of life's difficulties. We live in troubling times, and no doubt you've experienced many challenges, uncertainties, and disappointments in your own life. Nor does the practice of gratitude deny the Buddha's teaching on death: Death is certain; your death is certain; the time of death is unknown; the time of your death is unknown. Rather, gratitude practice is useful because it turns the mind in such a way that it enables you to live into life or, more accurately, to die into life. Having access to the joy and wonderment of life is the antidote to feelings of scarcity and loss. It allows you to meet life's difficulties with an open heart. The understanding you gain from practicing gratitude frees you from being lost or identified with either the negative or the positive aspects of life, letting you simply meet life in each moment as it rises.
Whew. Yeah. You can see that this is pretty wrapped-up in Buddhist notions of mindfulness -similar to Pema Chodron's notion of pause practice that I mentioned a few months ago - and it's certainly not something that should be resigned to one day a year and bracketed by turkey and cranberry sauce. Moffitt's article hits on the shift in consciousness that is being mindfully grateful, the actual practice of changing the way you see the world such that you understand the depth and complexity of everyday events and don't get so caught up in the miniature dramas of daily life that you lose sight of the bigger picture (ergh, pet peeve). Like, you bitch about the fact that your feet hurt from being on them at work for 8 hours, but you forget how great it is that a) you have a job, especially in this economy, and b) your legs work to use them, and c) you even have legs in the first place. Um, yeah. Talk about a perspective shift.
But this does take practice; it doesn't happen overnight. And you've gotta do it consciously, enlisting the variety of wisdom traditions Moffitt highlights in this brief essay: Thoreau and the Transcendentalists, Rumi, the Bible, all of it.
Read the piece. It's a good mindset to slip into at the beginning of this Thanksgiving week. And might keep you from getting lost in family drama when Aunt Hilda asks you for the fortieth time when you're going to have another kid, or when the pumpkin pie you pull out of the oven slips out of your hand and plops all over the floor, or when you can't find an open liquor store on Thanksgiving to save your life. It's all perspective, my friends. All of it.
Selfless Gratitude (Yoga Journal)