Gratitude in these times: ThanksGiving 2016

Dear friends, brothers and sisters,

As part of our long established tradition, at this time of year I send you deep gratitude for your support and for all I have been learning directly or vicariously from your presence in my life. Thank you for existing. 

The northern hemisphere reaches the end of the harvest season and in some countries, like the United States and Canada, friends and family prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving. 

"The first Thanksgiving" (1915) by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris. American painter (1863-1930). 

"The first Thanksgiving" (1915) by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris. American painter (1863-1930). 

What shall you give thanks for this year? 

We are living interesting times. I had to look hard into my heart to acknowledge its current wide range of mixed emotions and be authentic in my gratitude for all the many things it is certainly worth being thankful for. 

Metaphorically the moment in history from where this celebration originated speaks for itself. Please humor me, hear its essence with new ears. I find it worthwhile recalling it, tasting it, feeling it, letting it be a reminder of what values each one of us holds dear. 

Most of you know the story of this celebration better than I do. I came to the United States in my early 30s. This particular festivity deeply puzzled me. Before taking residence in California I barely knew it existed. To my European eyes there was within it a blatant contradiction that eventually I came to accept, like everyone else, when I understood its wider cultural meaning. But the contradiction never went away. Even my childhood history books were pretty clear about the extermination of the Native Tribes of North America. 

A small group of Northern European whites flees persecution (perpetrated by their own people) in search of freedom. After perilous sailing they arrive to the American shores with nothing, ignorant of the new environment and soon they are plagued by disease and starvation.

Local indigenous people, dark and different, rescue them AND teach them how to survive and prosper in a landscape well known to them, in their own home land. The Natives give the Pilgrims a future. The communication is made possible by one of the Natives who had been taken to England as a slave, learned English and escaped. The weakened Mayflower Pilgrims could have been slaughtered in a blink of an eye. Instead they were saved by someone who had been enslaved by their own kind. To celebrate the first Corn harvest, a staple previously unknown to them, they hold a three day feast along with their saviors. 

Tragically, history moved on from gratitude to slaughter and betrayal as the whites got busy destroying the red brothers that saved them. Yes, history is complex, many factors intervene simultaneously. And yet there are those magic moments, cross-roads moments, when the flow of events can take a direction instead of another. We might be right now, at one of those cross-roads.   Read more about Thanksgiving here. 

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More then ever we don't have the luxury of neutrality. We are called to meet external challenges and the intensity of our emotional responses with clear eyes and wisdom. We cannot avoid naming what is precious to us, take stock of the ground we stand on, and be ready to protect it. For everyone. Even for those we disagree with. 

I meet you in the aftermath of what cannot be ignored, a democratically elected fascist government. Politics is entering the kitchen, the bedroom, the desk, the workplace. We have to let it in each in our own personal and unique way. And we need to keep the balance, nurture what counts, be grateful for each other. 

In the midst of all this turmoil, uncertainty and doubts let us turn to gratitude as tradition invites us to. The Lakota invocation below has entered many rivers of the white culture becoming somehow timeless, and might be worth sharing this year at your Thanksgiving table. May it be filled with love, compassion, joy, courage and the clarity of wisdom. 


Aho Mitakuye Oyasin

I honor you in this circle of life with me today. I am grateful for this opportunity to acknowledge you in this invocation

  • To the Creator, for the ultimate gift of life, I give thanks
  • To the mineral nation that has built and maintained my bones and all foundations of life experience, I give thanks
  • To the plant nation that sustains my organs and body and gives me healing herbs for sickness, I give thanks
  • To the animal nation that feeds me from its own flesh and offers loyal companionship in the walk of life, I give thanks
  • To the human nation that shares my path as one soul upon the sacred wheel of Earthly life, I give thanks
  • To the Spirit nation that guides me invisibly through the ups and downs of life by carrying the torch of Light through the Ages, I give thanks
  • To the Four Winds of Change and Growth, I give thanks. 

You are all my relations, my relatives, without whom I would not live. We are in the circle of life together, co-existing, co-dependent, co-creating our destiny. One, not more important than the other. One nation evolving from the other and yet each dependent upon the one above and the one below. All of us a part of the Great Mystery.

Thank you for this life.