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We Give Thanks…

I’m not a formally religious person.  Rather, through years of living in New York and now the Bay Area, I’ve evolved into a token 21st-century “spiritual, but not religious” person, looking to things like yoga, nature, books, and other people for some sort of understanding of why we’re all here on this earth (more to come on that some other time).  And while this view is liberating and open and inclusive, it also brings with it some challenges.  Questions like how to incorporate the childhood religious traditions/rituals (i.e., singing Silent Night by candlelight on Christmas Eve, volunteering in the church food pantry, family Easter scavenger hunts) are ambiguous and difficult to resolve.

This is complicated by the fact that I love…and crave rituals.  Rituals comfort me and are responsible for some of my strongest memories.  They make me feel happy and warm and fuzzy and bright.  So during the last few years, I’ve tried to create some secular rituals in my life that ground me and direct me.  One of the most important ones in our house is our nightly “thanks,” as we call it.  Every night before dinner, we take a minute to hold hands and recite a short saying we wrote a few years ago.  It calms us all down, and it’s a simple way to keep perspective amidst sometimes crazy days.  Here it is:

We give thanks…
For the food on our plates,
For the things we were able to do today, and
For the people sitting around this table.
We remember today, and everyday,
How fortunate we are,
To be safe, warm, fed and loved.
May we eat together in happiness and peace.

These few words only take a minute to say, and even our 4-yr-old can play along (our 2-yr-old just says “peace” at the end).  And the rewards run deep.  Science tells us that “gratitude is linked with better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life, and kinder behavior toward others” (check out this New York Times article for more details).  Does a dose of gratitude a day really keep the doctor away?  I’m sure willing to give it a shot.  Are you?  Think about it, during this holiday season and beyond…how can you incorporate gratitude into your everyday life?  What rituals can you design to create space for giving thanks?  What might your pre-dinner “thanks” sound like?

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