Photo Credit: Nomadic Lass (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo Credit: Nomadic Lass (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Today we gave thanks. We gave thanks for our family, our friends, for the food on our table, our homes, our health, our wealth, and our luck. We gave thanks for all of our possessions and prayed that the people who aren’t as lucky as us would somehow come into possession of all the things required for “happiness”.

While we were in the act of being thankful, I wondered who each person was thanking. Most of those at the table would have said that they’re thanking the Almighty. One or two who didn’t believe in God, thanked Lady Luck for allowing the universe to align itself in such a way that it incidentally provided more than just the basic needs of life, making existence not only tolerable, but beautiful. Others thanked their “higher power” which is another name given to the Almighty, but whose definition is a little more flexible – the Divine naked – stripped of any particular religious garb.

gods of different religions

Interestingly, there was one person at the dinner table who crinkled his nose at the question. He thought for a minute and wondered why he didn’t have an answer. “Who am I thanking?” he asked himself in his mind. He found himself unable to answer the question. The definitive answer didn’t come to him as simply as it did to the others. He thought that perhaps his mind wasn’t as open to the spiritual realm as were the minds of the others. For isn’t it only when you search far and wide and deep into your soul that you have a chance of uncovering the Source of Life? And must you not have an open heart, an open mind, and an open being in order to find the answer? After all, the search for Who one must thank for a”good life” is the ultimate search of all searches, and therefore, the answer must be the ultimate of all answers.

“But why do I have to know?” he thought. “All that really matters is that my thankful self shows up for Thanksgiving.” Thankfulness is the experience of gratitude, so defining one’s object of gratitude can’t be nearly as important as the actual feeling of thankfulness, right?

 Grace isn’t a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It’s a way to live.  ~ Jacqueline Winspear

Unfortunately for that poor soul sitting at the dining table, he soon found out that his Thankful Self had not actually shown up for Thanksgiving! And it wasn’t until later that he began to wonder if he had been wrong all along to think that gratitude itself was enough. Maybe knowing to whom one ought to be grateful is the only opening to the real experience of giving thanks!

A seemingly small incident occurred as the Thankful event came to a close (why is thankfulness a tradition which begins and ends? Why has it turned into a ritual?). The incident wasn’t evident to the others as it took place in the mind of our  troubled friend with no one to thank (where were the Native Americans when you needed them to thank?). As the leftovers of dinner were very kindly divided among the guests, a very thankless thought (and feeling) crossed his mind. By the time the generous hostess got to making his “to-go” box, his favorite two side dishes, the stuffing and mashed potatoes, were almost completely gone.

“Oh I’m so sorry dear” the hostess exclaimed once she realized her error in measurement, “you didn’t quite get as much as the rest did you?” Putting on his best smile, he looked at her and exclaimed, “Oh please! You didn’t have to give me anything at all! Besides, the more of ‘this’ I take home the more I’ll have of ‘that’!” he said pointing to his belly. The gracious hostess laughed at the uninspired joke as she patted his shoulder in apology and handed him the lesser share.

Of course, his reaction from inside wasn’t quite as gracious. In fact, it was greedy and ungrateful. He felt that he was treated inconsiderately as he gazed pitifully at the overflowing plates of the others. Not coincidentally, his thoughts and feelings didn’t go unnoticed by his observing self (how many ‘he’s’ are there?).

He clearly saw himself having these thoughtless thoughts, and this disturbed him not only because it was the official day of “thanks”, but because during the prayer and the meal he had really believed himself utterly sincere and humble in his gratitude! But how can one who isn’t thankful trick himself into thinking that he is? He had actually fooled himself into believing that he had left his ungrateful self at home!

Painting: "Cavalry and Indians" by Unknown - Werner Company, Akron, Ohio. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Painting: “Cavalry and Indians” by Unknown – Werner Company, Akron, Ohio. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, one of his good friends had slowly made her way across the kitchen and slid into the space beside him. She had been watching him closely. She held her plate up and cleverly said, “I think you took the wrong to-go box Babe. I have all the mashed potatoes and stuffing – your favorites – and you have all the yams and cranberry sauce – my favorites. Besides, I’m not nearly strong enough to carry this heavy thing. My wrist is likely to crack!”

This friend was well known for projecting her intuitive power, openness and sensitivity to others. Now our poor conflicted soul was genuinely smiling. “Okay okay, you caught me being greedy” he said, playfully rolling his eyes. In an instant, he no longer cared about his less than adequate portion. His attention had stopped fiddling with greedy thoughts as soon as he woke up to the reality of his factual surroundings.

Suddenly he got serious: “I know it’s stupid but I was really feeling bad for a while. I mean, it’s Thanksgiving and here I was thinking how little I got compared to everyone else. I’m such a jerk.”

“Look” she said as she grabbed the plate from his hand and gave him hers, “you can’t just leave your Being to chance, you have to do everything with intention.” His nose crinkled in confusion for the second time. “Before I came here,” she continued, “I took a few minutes to ask that my thankful self show up for dinner.”

Ah-ha! Now was his chance to find out who the object of his thanks should be! “Oh? You did? But who did you ask?”

“That’s up to you” she said. “You ask whoever you believe is your higher power. ‘Ask and you shall receive’,” she said beaming with confidence. Still, he was full of questions. Although his ungrateful and grateful selves were not presently creating any inner conflict, the self who witnessed the conflict first hand wasn’t yet satisfied.

“But I don’t understand something. Aren’t YOU your “thankful self”? I mean, why would you ask someone else, higher power or otherwise, to make sure that YOU showed up? Whether I’m my thankful self or my ungrateful self, it’s still me right? It sounds very strange – almost nonsensical.”

“Well it’s hard to explain. You have your ungrateful self, your regular self, and your grateful self. You need to bring ‘light’ and ‘love’ into the equation. You need to ask your grateful self to appear but it can’t appear without ‘light’ and ‘love’. I once heard it said that “Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.” she said with a wink that presumed they both knew the source of the saying.

“How many selves am I?” he began questioning again with painful interest and growing anxiety. He reasoned that her explanation would enlighten him to the spiritual facts. Yet with every one of her replies a new question generated from his mind! “So does that mean that someone else is responsible for which self of mine appears on any given occasion? That would be quite a relief! Hahaha!

Unlike their affable host she didn’t laugh. In fact, her face darkened a little. He could see that she was feeling frustrated with his questions, and why wouldn’t she? What was wrong with him? Why was he not understanding? Was he not open to knowledge? Was his mind closed? Was his heart closed?

“Maybe we should talk about this later when we have more time to devote to the subject. It’s a bit complicated and I’m not sure how to explain it to you in simple terms. Besides, it’s what you believe that matters. That’s what you should go by. I’m going by my beliefs, and that’s why when I invoke my higher power I’m usually gifted with the appearance of my grateful self.

It did seem complicated. Very complicated (but why does reality look so complicated? Is it because Truth is actually complicated, or is it because the mind is too complicated to fathom such simplicity?). His mind was still producing more questions than answers:

Why am I divided into so many selves? And if I am so many selves then aren’t I responsible for the appearance and disappearance of them all?

How is it that our questions and prayers can be answered according to what we believe despite that beliefs vary so vastly from one person to the next?

Is there more than one Truth?! Can different paths leading in different directions all lead to Truth? (But how can Truth be more than ONE? Doesn’t Truth have to be what actually IS? Could pathlessness be the answer?)

Are we asking and thanking someone we’ve actually come to KNOW, or someone we only believe we know?

What if I believe in myself? Can I ask my regular self to show up as my grateful self, or ask my ungrateful self to stay away from a particular event?

Who is the self who is asking that my grateful self show up, or my ungrateful self stay away?

Oh no! Now I’m counting four selves (or is five or six?)!

And on and on the questions went…

Photo Credit: Amy Palko (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Photo Credit: Amy Palko (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

From his expression she realized that he wasn’t grasping what she was saying (she was all too familiar with the crinkling of his nose). But at the moment she didn’t know how to help him because she didn’t have the adequate tools that were needed to make him understand. She would first have to get her hands on some books which would better explain her beliefs, not in a few words, but in greater detail. This alone would keep his mind from generating so many questions that she wasn’t prepared to answer right now. Such answers need time, and presently there was no time.

He too recognized the look of aggravation on her face.  But there was at least one thing that he knew, and that was that he didn’t know anything. He didn’t know who to ask, who to thank, nor even whose voice it was that was asking to begin with!

His Thankful Self had not shown up for Thanksgiving perhaps because he wasn’t as spiritually open as the rest of them. All he knew was that he was a tormented soul with too many questions to arrive at any definitive answer.

Photo Credit: Mike Keelin (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Photo Credit: Mike Keelin (CC BY-ND 2.0)

In the end, though he invoked no one and asked for nothing, he did feel grateful for his good friend. He wasn’t sure how, but somehow she had helped him uncover a Light from within. No one would have known because he didn’t thank her outright – not in word, deed or thought. But in this very moment he sensed a simple fact that existed without any doubt – without question – every cell of his being oozed with gratitude for his beautiful friend.

Lone Sheep’s Note:

There is an old Eastern saying which goes something like this:“The finger which points at the moon is not the moon.”

Confucius was said to have put it this way:

“When the wise man points at the Moon, the idiot looks at the finger.”

Can one who has uncovered Truth talk about it? Of course one can talk about anything, but is the thing that is spoken, or defined, or acted out or modeled – is it Truth itself? What is the FACT that one alludes to when one talks of Truth? Is it the finger or the MOON?

These are only some of the questions to consider…rather, my question to myself is, “Is there any thing said, done, believed, or known that should not be questioned, doubted, delved into on one’s own without dependence on any other?”

Here are the fingers of a few wise men who are pointing at the Moon. I hope we don’t end up staring at their fingers hahaha 🙂

Moon by Ethan Aronoff

“Doubt your experiences, doubt your illusions, doubt the very structure of your thinking, doubt your beliefs so that the mind became free of all self-imposed or imposed illusions.” J. Krishnamurti

The only source of knowledge is experience.” – Albert Einstein

“Instead of old spiritual distinctions you have new spiritual distinctions, instead of old worships you have new worships. You are all depending for your spirituality on someone else, for your happiness on someone else, for your enlightenment on someone else” – J. Krishnamurti