I have learned something in my shamanic training that has held very true for me: the time just before dawn is an edgy time, when nighttime is over but morning hasn’t quite emerged, when the depths of sleep have ended but wakefulness has not yet taken its place, when there is a quiet stillness that reminds me it is late autumn. It is an in-between time, a time when the veil between dimensions is thin, a time of great potential and inspiration.
This morning, I found myself in this in-between time, reminiscing about the Thanksgiving dinner that we hosted three nights ago. I visualized the tables beautifully set with china, crystal, and flowers and the delicious food that everyone contributed. I thought of each person ~ husband, children, in-laws and out-laws, nieces and nephews ~ and the conversations, joking, and animation in the air. I marveled that we were able to manage a sit-down dinner for 34 people!
And then I got thinking about something my husband did when we were all seated for the meal. First, he surprised one of our nephews and his new bride by asking them to offer a prayer. Then, he opened it up to the rest of the group, inviting us to say a few words if we were so inclined. Throughout the evening, a few people chose to speak (or were cajoled into it), offering thanks for the food, the camaraderie, and remembering Nana and Papa who were surely smiling down upon us.
Still laying in bed, I began to imagine myself taking my turn to speak. Here is what I said: “Thanks-giving is one day out of the entire year when we take time to remember the blessings that we have received and give back in the form of gratitude.”
“So bring to mind one blessing that you have received this year. Perhaps it is a new friendship, a family trip, a delicious new recipe, a cool breeze on a hot summer night, an unexpected smile from a stranger walking down the street. As you bring that blessing to mind, bring your attention to your breath and notice how you feel inside.” After pausing for a while, I continued, speaking slowly. “It feels soft, warm, happy, peaceful. Pretty good, eh? And so we give thanks.”
“Now bring to mind something that has been challenging for you this year. Perhaps it is a financial setback, difficulty at school, a health issue, an argument or strained relationship, a feeling of unworthiness. Notice how that situation feels in your body. Bring your attention back to your breath and breathe to the area that hurts.” Gently guiding the group, I encouraged them to allow the hurt to slowly dissolve with each exhale and replace it with a feeling of openness with each inhale. After a minute or so, I invited them to notice how they felt ~ a bit calmer, less tense, perhaps even more willing to forgive.
And then I continued. “Now, take a moment to think about how this challenge has helped you become stronger, more flexible, more understanding, more resilient. We learn so much through the difficulties in our lives.”
“Several years ago, when one of our sons was in the hospital, we received a card that I still have to this day. It says:
We could never learn to be brave or patient if there was only joy in the world.
That quote is from Helen Keller, someone who lived her entire life in the darkness of being unable to see or hear, but was eventually able to communicate when Annie Sullivan found a way to break into her darkness. It turns out the challenges are a blessing, too. And so we give thanks.”
“So, let us be grateful, not only today but every day, for the incredible abundance we enjoy. Let us be grateful for the opportunities for healing and all that we learn through the challenges. And let us be grateful for one another, for all that we do to be that person like Annie Sullivan who finds a way to reach into our darkness, and for all that we receive when one of us comes over, offers a smile, and gives us a hug.”
The only trouble is, this was all in my imagination as I laid in bed this morning. I missed my window of opportunity three nights ago when it was Thanksgiving. With a sigh, I got up in the darkness of pre-dawn, feeling inspired. I fixed a cup of coffee and sat down to write this letter to my family and to you.