In a couple days, some of my family will join with us on Thanksgiving Day for dinner, games, and conversation. Some of my family will also be gone this year, to the Outer Banks and New York City. Some of my family is quite old and frail, and unless we call or visit, they will be more alone than we.
So what am I thankful for on this holiday? I could start with a similar refrain many people and Americans would sing, listing all the things possessed; nice well furnished homes, talented family members we love to brag about, all the things we have attained in study, work, and competition. Such thoughts and responses are almost universal, even among those with far less than I have. Indeed, some of the most contented people I ever met were among the poorest I’d ever seen. As a monk said to me, “Notice what they do have, not what they don’t.” Recently Greg Mortenson spoke at UB and we heard him speak of the deep love and trust he has discovered among the poorest and most remote peoples of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
What then do I feel most deeply appreciative and thankful for? Discovering a freedom of spirit and mind, I suppose I would say. I feel a very deep gratitude for the teachers I have been blessed to have along the way who taught me that life is really not about accumulating things or fame, but in an understanding of who I am. I think it started most memorably for me with a 1986 week seminar in Syracuse with the late Fr. Anthony de Mello. He was the first religious teacher I had who told me I was not my body, nor my nationality, or my gender, or my family, or my race, or my religious “abomination” as he called them.
After the gift of the 1987 trip to India, I was given the book A Course in Miracles, which has been for me almost a daily summary of the things I’ve been taught about remembering who I am. It’s so easy to get caught in the temporary “sweets of life.” As a saying goes from the East, “The bee came to eat the honey, but got stuck!” So daily I seek to feed my soul and spirit with food, with food for Life.
So what I am most thankful for is No-thing, or God being Spirit as No-thing. And that I see myself as part of that No-thing in my True Self. Yes, I love and enjoy my dear wife and family. I enjoy and love my home, my few possessions, my times of golfing with my son or buddies, or alone. I enjoy my little loving dog. I love my body and all it has given me to enjoy. However, I especially enjoy my mind for what choices it’s presented and I’ve chosen. I am deeply gracious for the knowledge and “awakening” to the idea that I am none of these passing, mortal things. I am realizing more than ever the mortality of the body, especially at this age. I have known and know the struggle to find connections in relationships with spouse and children and extended family. To me, these all are part of life’s classroom, a classroom I believe I wanted and chose to experience, but now realize it was part of my run from Spirit, from God, from My Self.
I am thankful I can sit in my little room and meditate by breathing, chanting Om, and realizing I am reentering the place beyond space and time, going Home to where I always am but so easily forget. I can remember I am on a journey without distance, to a place I never really left except in my imagination and dream. I am so thankful I have passed the point where such concepts once scared the living bejesus out of me! I am so thankful I see and feel myself as a part of Everything Real, like the Buddhist monk who told the vender of hotdogs, “Make me one with everything!”
Yes, I give thanks for the gifts I temporarily have of reasonable health, loving family, beautiful and devoted wife, this country, etc. etc. etc. But mostly I am thankful for that mysterious but wonderful experience and feeling of knowing I am much more than these. Physical love, pleasure in a mountain top climb, fishing in a quiet stream, hitting a perfectly struck golf ball, eating great food with family, playing, singing or listening to music, watching a movie that moves me to tears of joy, hearing passionate love from a person like Greg Mortenson; these and more are just a taste, foreplay if you please, of Who I really am, One with my Love and All, all the time, and more.
One of my favorite songs recently learned is another from Daniel Nahmod (you guessed?). It’s title is “Don’t Decide,” which seems so counter to all we have been taught. I even felt a bit of resistance to learning it at first. The third verse has lines which go;
It’s doesn’t make no sense at all;
It’s a deceptively simple call;
When I’m holding nothing, Only then I’ll have it All!
So true, so true. This Thanksgiving, may I be renewed even again in a deeper realization of Who I truly am, a Creation of Spirit by the Father of All, God, Mother, Buddha, Bahalua, Hashem, Mind, Sign, or whatever name you give it. Amen.