I’ll be honest. I’ve been worn down by the past two years of pandemic and a multitude of losses and stresses, personal and shared. I’ve lost hope and had to look hard to find it. My heart has sometimes been heavy with the weight of grief, my eyes quick to brim with tears.
So the perennial question returns– how to bow my head in a true expression of thanks? Then I recall my teacher’s wisdom, spoken literally in our tai ji practice but meant for life as well: If you get lost or confused, first get centered. Then explore your options.
Nearly every morning, I begin my day with a brief body prayer consisting of these words:
Open to the light of the day,
Drawing energy from the earth below,
Connected to those around me,
Grateful for all I’ve been given, and
Grounded by those who have gone before me.
This daily centering reminds me that who I am and how I am is not limited to the boundaries of my body or identity, or even to my time and place. It underscores the way open-hearted living calls all of us into relationship with earth and sky, with fellow beings all around, with gifts and losses both, and with ancestors, by blood or by lineage of love and faith.
Gratitude, it occurs to me, rises from relationship. From acknowledging that whatever circumstances surround Thanksgiving – or any other day – they belong in a larger arc of life and time. So in the times when grief weighs heavy on the heart, or despair dims the world’s shimmer, or fear locks all the doors, we might begin by getting centered. And then explore the options of a wider circle holding us all, in time, in place, in relationship.
Whether we mark this holiday by gathering around a table with others or in solitude at our kitchen counter, perhaps this simple prayer will say enough – remembering that “we” means all of us, and “here” means everywhere, and “together” means the many ways we are connected across time and space, across barriers and brokenness.
We give thanks for being.
We give thanks for being here.
We give thanks for being here together.
If you want to shed a few tears of gratitude to balance those of grief, you might want to view this recording of Elizabeth Alexander’s composition, We Give Thanks for Being, based on this prayer — first sung by children and then, two minutes into the videio, as a full choral piece, all connecting across the distances of our times.
Thank you all for being here, in this world, together.