This week I’m giving thanks for the unexpected gift of a week off from my brotberuf (bread job), without which I wouldn’t have had time to write this reflection. And this is a reflection I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. It’s a gratitude meditation that I do, and have shared online and with my forest meditation group. And it’s really as simple as it gets—giving thanks in four parts. So let’s dive in:
Give thanks that Gaia is alive.
Most planets do not have the conditions for life to exist or flourish. But Earth does. And because of that good fortune, we get to be part of this sacred being, this living planet. Give thanks to this planetary holobiont, who continues to be stable. Perhaps not healthy at the moment, but still alive and filled with beauty and resilience. Tomorrow may bring dramatic changes, and for those adapted to Gaia’s current state, untold horrors. But at this moment, Earth continues to breathe, and sustain Gi’s wondrous cycles, like bringing water from the oceans to the clouds to the lands up to the clouds, into the rivers and oceans and to the clouds once again, never stopping and nourishing all life.
Give thanks that You are alive.
Somehow against all odds, you were conceived, and your mother gave birth to you. Someone or many someones cared for you as you grew (or grow) to adulthood. Perhaps not enough, perhaps too much, perhaps just the right amount. But you survived, and are alive. You may be ill, or lonely, or have limited mobility. But you are alive. You are. You are conscious, able to sense—to see, hear, taste, touch, or feel in some combination—the amazing world you’re part of, and reflect on it. That is a gift, give thanks for that.1
Give thanks for others who love you are alive.
By our very nature, we are social animals. Give thanks to the others in your life that bring you joy, comfort, security, love. As well as help you, challenge you, make you grow. For parents, children, siblings, extended family, chosen family, coworkers, fellow adherents, neighbors, friends,2 community members, and everyone in your life that makes this life worth living.
Give thanks that the cycle of life continues, even beyond our lives.
One day, soon or years into the future, you will die. You will return to Gaia and help continue the cycle of life. But others will go on. Friends and family, human society, and countless other beings will be born and die, born and die, continuing the great cycle of life. Most importantly, even if great changes occur, and many species disappear (perhaps even our own) Gaia will continue, trying new combinations of traits until beings that can survive on the changed Earth can thrive—sustaining themselves and the living and ever evolving whole they’re part of.3
Adding to this meditation
Of course, you can add more layers to this meditation as you are moved—whatever calls you to share your thanks, such as:
- To all the beautiful beings that populate Gaia. From the blue-green algae that provide oxygen; the plants and animals that provide sustenance; the microbes and fungi that sustain the soil so that food can grow. Or simply celebrate all beings and the fact that together, even in the constant struggle for life, they enrich Earth with their presence.
- For your health and security, if you have these in your life.
- For the freedom to serve Gaia, your community, to do good, with your brief moment of consciousness.
- For the organizations and groups you’re part of that help do good, and make your life more meaningful.
- For a still functioning society, which may become increasingly rare around the world.4
- For fresh air, access to nature, and the beauty all around us.
A final note: giving gratitude can be highly effective in improving moods, keeping us focused on the good of life and of being alive, and of our potential as servants of Gaia. But when forced, giving gratitude can be a type of denial, suppressing or coating difficult emotions, as this excellent article discusses. So keep gratitude meditations and prayers balanced with other forms of mindfulness efforts, service, and self-care.
For those who celebrate, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! And if you have a moment, share below what you are grateful for.
1) You may be so ill that it’s hard to give thanks. But you probably have enough health to be reading this, to experience moments of happiness and connection. You probably have enough to eat, a warm home, freedom to move about, explore, and express yourself. If you do, remember that there are many who do not. If you do not, you are still alive, and still have agency (even if limited by your own struggles), and every day that you continue to be differentiated from Earth still has the potential to be a gift.
2) People who know me know of my ambivalence to the pet industry, but if you have a non-human you can call a friend, give thanks for him or her as well.
3) Yes, one day even Gaia will die, but life was here in this solar system at least for some billions of years. So give thanks for being part of this living being during its long and mysterious life.
4) This gratitude meditation from Greater Good Science Center lists dozens of modern conveniences that we take for granted—from heating and plumbing, to public libraries and postal service—if you want more ideas of what to give thanks for (and we should add antibiotics and other modern medicine to this list too!).