May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful. These are the words I say every night with my family as we sit together and practice our “loving kindness meditation.” In this meditative practice we, through a series of affirmations, acknowledge and honor our connection to each other and the larger world. The practice, in which you send your love and kindness to an ever widening circle (from yourself, to a loved one, to an acquaintance, to someone who has been unkind to you, to the whole world), opens up your awareness, calms your mind and develops empathy.
This year at Thanksgiving, I have decided to meditate on the meaning of these four affirmations for this season.
May you be Happy: As I sit with family and friends, I am aware of the love and joy in the room. Happiness sits in these moments of connection, not in the crazy hubbub of impending black Friday. Happiness is something within all of our reach, if we are open to it- and choose to see and savor it, even in the briefest of moments. Happiness can then be the taste of the stuffing, the belly laugh of a child, the beauty of the table. Not every person’s Thanksgiving is a Hallmark card. There are stressful relationships, histories of pain and hurt. Sometimes the holidays bring it all up in uncomfortable ways. But happiness is possible in the small moments, and that happiness is in our power to create, hold and nurture.
May you be Well: At the Thanksgiving table I will be sitting, smiling, talking, laughing, listening, breathing, and eating. All of these are things I am able to do because I am blessed this year with physical health. It is easy to forget the importance of this gift when we are so busy in our lives. But this year I am thankful for all the ways my body works every day and the ways in which this allows me to appreciate and experience the world. Not everyone is in perfect health. But each of us can be thankful for the degree of health we do have and be grateful to be able to share at least one more holiday together.
May you be Safe: This Thanksgiving I will be snuggled in with my family and friends in a warm house- safe from the cold and rain of a New England November. The elements will not threaten me as they do the victims of typhoon Haiyan or the homeless on the streets of our cities. I will not fear that missiles may rain down on my home or that roving militias will enter my house- things that could not be taken for granted in other parts of the world. In my suburban home, I will not fear random street violence as others in less safe neighborhoods do. I often take these things for granted. This Thanksgiving I will be thankful of all the ways I am blessed to be safe. Perhaps if we all recognized the degree to which our safety makes our lives possible, we would have more empathy for those who do not have that luxury. Perhaps we might be motivated to make it so that more people could live in safety.
May you be Peaceful: Through nightly meditation this year, I have tapped into a source of calm and tranquility in myself that I had previously never experienced. As a coach, teacher, wife, mother, friend and daughter, I often have more on my To Do list than feels possible. However, the calm that I have found through mindfulness and meditation has allowed me to stop and breathe. I have found stillness in the midst of commotion. It has allowed me to be both happier and more productive. In an era when we are always moving, checking our cell phones, email, texts and social media, being peaceful is something for which I am deeply thankful.
Your meditations may look different than mine, but this Thanksgiving, take a moment to identify the things for which you are thankful- both big and small.
May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful. Happy Thanksgiving.