“I’m grateful for always this moment, the now, no matter what form it takes.”
I woke up this morning to the sound of Solo’s dog tags jingling as she ran up the stairs and popped in to the bedrooms, checking in on humans and other animals sleeping in the quiet early morning. Solo is visiting us with her own humans for our traditional Thanksgiving gathering.
The faces around the table will be mostly the same as the prior Thanksgiving festivities in this 107 year-old house. Our menu, which we paint in watercolors each year, is lovingly curated from family recipe classics. Granddad’s Stuffing, Ava’s Cranberry Sauce, Lena’s Sweet Potatoes, Natasha’s Apple Pie…
Some things, however, are evolving and shifting in significant ways. My husband and I have separated after twenty-five years together. Twenty-five means many Thanksgiving turkeys. It was a slow, conscious, compassionate change process of small steps over two years. We are envisioning the “next phase” relationship we can consciously create together for our family. We communicate our intentions with each decision (mostly) and gather for twice-weekly dinners to cook together and connect as a family. We are hosting the extended tribe this year in the old schoolhouse as always, and we move like a well-rehearsed ballet in the kitchen. And it’s not easy. I lean on all of my tools for grounding, centering and dropping below the storytelling, protective mind.
Being human with presence means we experience the “full catastrophe” of life as Jon Kabat Zinn calls it. Sadness, grief, joy, delight, flow states, love, heartbreak, and simple moments of wonder and awe. What helps is that we allow it all, instead of resisting, fighting, blaming or denying whatever our current experience is. We feel it in the body. We see it, name it and allow it with kind awareness.
Last week I attended the celebration of the life of Gigi, who lived with a mixture of simplicity, color, parties and connection for almost 102 years. She was a magnet for bringing people together. Laughter, fresh flowers, speaking authentically and dancing were part of Gigi’s recipe for longevity. With a splash of scotch. And she will be missed. My dear friend K. and her children are spending their first Thanksgiving without her husband who suffered from brain cancer. Devastating. The earth is in a climate crisis. Loss, change, pain, uncertainty.
And there are the joys… My teen daughter discovered a passion for Physics and Astronomy and keeps me riveted with her explanations of the mystery of the universe. My book The Mindful Day just landed on the bestseller list at #2 this month. Inspiring collaborators are becoming partners in our work – from London to Sydney. We spent Sunday night dancing in a jubilant crowd to the music of siblings Jaden and Willow Smith. We are about to gather with loved ones, eat pie and share from the heart. And so it goes, as the Buddha says… 10,000 sorrows and 10,000 joys.
And we are not alone in this… in navigating a beautiful life at home, work, and the places in-between. As you gather this week in the US, and for the many of you in this community who are in other countries around the world, I have an invitation. Perhaps we can open our hearts and turn with compassion and gratitude towards ourselves and each other this week- knowing we are all practicing at being human. We all belong.
Practices to work with this Thanksgiving week:
- Allow. When your cousin arrives late, mishaps occur in the kitchen, your feelings get hurt over a comment… just pause and breathe. Allow the moment to be what it is. “It’s like this” is my go-to mantra for cultivating a mindset of allowing and acceptance in the present moment.
- Savor. As you return to being present and aware, again and again, keep your eyes open for beauty, acts of kindness, generosity, awe, and love. When you notice a moment that delights you or warms your heart: pause. Stop and savor by inviting all of your senses to expand what you are experiencing and deepen your connection to what’s good in your life. Do so for a full breath. In my book I call this practice Take in the Good, adapted from Rick Hanson. It’s how we gladden the heart. We make regular deposits of joy to offset the hard parts.
- Appreciate. Gratitude is one of the most powerful gateways to well-being and happiness. As you intentionally invite the question of what you are grateful for, and answers arise, share them out loud. Tell people directly what you appreciate about them. Send a text or email- or actually telephone those who are not with you. Expressing appreciation warms the heart and creates connection. Gratitude invites joy. I appreciate this community, and your emails, stories and experiences you share with me.
This article originally appeared here on PurposeBlue’s blog about mindful leadership.