By Burton M. Fischler, M.A., Certified Life Coach
As I considered the CDC’s suggestion to limit our Thanksgiving family gatherings, due to the high rate of coronavirus infection spread, several thoughts came to mind.
First, with respect to finding a safe space in which to celebrate Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of one of my favorite of Hilary B. Price’s Rhymes with Orange cartoons: The Quest. The cartoon depicts a Zen Center storefront. There’s a sign in the window that reads: “Seeking Enlightenment? Inquire Within.” A passerby turns to an apparently enlightened person, seated on the sidewalk in front of the sign, in a cross-legged yoga position. She inquires, “Where’s the door?” He responds, “No door.” So, the safest place to go this Thanksgiving is inside yourself.
Second, what would Thanksgiving be without guests? Rumi’s spiritual poem, The Guest House, provides a timely answer. This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently empty your house of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice. Meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
During this dystopian time, when social distancing is required of us in order to stay healthy, feeling lonely and isolated are natural responses. The Source of Your Love is You, Najwa Zebian’s thought-provoking poem, offers an an interesting perspective. You will keep getting let down and let go by them until you realize the importance of you holding your soul together, until you realize the importance of you keeping yourself lifted up. You. Yourself. Without anyone. I wish you knew how much beauty is within your soul. You do not need anyone to love you to feel that you are worthy of being loved.
Third, what would a Thanksgiving celebration be without a food feast? Derek Walcott’s beautiful poem, Love After Love, provides an appropriate solution. The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the other’s welcome, and say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life.
If you’re a fan of Louise Hay’s Mirror Work, as I am, you will understand the powerful message of Derek Walcott’s poem. So, stand in front of your mirror, look into your eyes, and say I love you. I really love you. Then, treat yourself to Louise Hay’s book, Mirror Work: 21 Days to Heal Your Life.
Fourth, what would Thanksgiving be without a gratitude prayer? Brother Steindl-Rast reminds us that the root of joy is gratefulness… It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful. It’s easy to get the relationship between gratitude and joy backwards; but, don’t. Whether you consider yourself to be a person of faith or of no faith at all, say your own gratitude prayer on Thanksgiving, or consider incorporating Thich Nhat Hanh’s morning prayer into your own: waking up this morning, I see the blue sky. I join hands in thanks for the many wonders of life; for having twenty-four brand-new hours before me.
Fifth, what would Thanksgiving be without giving? Arianna Huffington reminds us that giving is the most powerful form of self-care. She calls it a self-care miracle drug. So, be sure to give generously to yourself during this holiday season. And, be sure to give generously to others, too.
You, your family, neighbors, community, nation, and the world needs your kindness, now more than ever. If you’re asking how and why you should feel grateful, during this season of collective trauma, caused by the ravaging consequences of the coronavirus global pandemic, it’s important to reflect on Marianne Williamson’s Tears to Triumph message. The wisest question when we are deeply sad is not, “How can I end or numb this pain immediately?” The wisest question is “What is the meaning of this pain?” or, “What does it reveal to me? What is it calling me to understand?“
My fellow humans, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. Stay safe, be well, and take comfort in knowing this: by taking personal steps towards self-acceptance, self-awareness, self-love, and self-care, we are better prepared to combat the coronavirus or, for that matter, anything else.