Posted by: Jane Valencia | November 26, 2009

The Secret Of Thanksgiving

One thing I'm grateful for: my spring garden in late fall!

Across the US folks are gathering today with family and friends, or just enjoying (as my own family is) a sweet time at home to celebrate Thanksgiving. No matter what tales and folk-myths we carry about the first Thanksgiving, the point is that giving thanks is one of those “cultural elements” — those practices that are universal to (dare I say) all cultures. In fact, you might call it an essential honest expression or gesture in any culture that knows itself.

Okay, if we look at postmodern American culture, we might be hard-pressed to say that the US culture “knows itself”.  Our overtly selfish, greedy, irresponsible, grab-all-you-can and hang the consequences nation pays lip service to Thanksgiving. But is Thanksgiving woven into the real fabric of who we are as a nation, as citizens?   I look to the Iroquois Confederacy–the Haudenosaunee (the People Of The Longhouse)–whose hundreds year old democracy on this good soil so values gratitude and its gifts that the people in this cultural tradition begin every morning, every gathering (including political) in “bringing their minds together as one” and giving thanks.

What a beautiful practice! But not just being beautiful, it is a practical practice. When we give thanks —

for the people around us
the earth
the waters
bacteria and other microorganisms
the insects and spiders
the herbs
the finned ones
the animals
the trees
the birds
the air we breathe
the clouds and weather
the moon
the sun
the stars
the creative and imaginative principles and spirits
the Creator, Divine, Mystery
the universe and the future generations
and anything and everything else that springs into our hearts and minds —

— when we take the time and make the space to truly honor and celebrate the individuals in the web of this event and adventure we call life, then we bring our whole selves in balance with all that is. We know ourselves to be part of a generous life-giving cosmos, and we are essential to the fabric of creation.  We become a means that the cosmos, the divine knows itself.  Even more immediate: we know ourselves to be woven to the people right next to us. Who they are matters. What they are worried about matters. Giving thanks takes us out of our hidebound selves and places us into an intermingled concept of who we are.

In a very practical sense, when we give thanks for the many blessings in our life we enhance our awareness of these many things. Giving thanks from the heart (not just lip service) opens us to caring for all things, and deepening a felt knowledge that we are integral to the celebration–that there is a celebration taking place right now around us. A cause-and-effect begins: when we give thanks for the heart, and make that a daily practice, we find much more to be thankful for. We discover the abundance that is everywhere in our lives. Perhaps abundance even increases as a result, as synchronicities and everyday miracles are revealed or come into play because we are able to witness them. We grow in our inner strength and assurance, and develop an “upright mind”.

I’m not going to try to define an “upright mind” — just sit with those words and feel them in your cells, bones, being. Better yet, sit with your back to a tall tree, and contemplate those words, or better yet again–offer Thanksgiving–and you’ll sense what I mean.

It is said that Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers were fascinated by the Haudenosaunee and their democracy, and that many elements of Haudenosaunee democracy and their Great Law Of Peace found some form in our own US Constitution (I invite you research this topic and see what you discover.  See the book The U.S. Constitution And The Great Law Of Peace: A Comparison Of Two Founding Documents or search on the web). Imagine if true thanksgiving and bringing together of minds were to find their way in honest fashion in the conduct of our government! Hm. I just love the vision of the possible.

But in the meantime, it can’t really happen–not in the self-absorbed, uninitiated, stumbling, crumbling structure that is our republic at this time. But it can begin with where you and I are. Where we honestly make the time and space to celebrate the incredible beauty and bounty of existence and of ourselves and fellow beings in relation to that and each other. It is said that the the dawn chorus–birds at sunrise, bursting into song–are offering Thanksgiving. May we find ways to do so that become as natural as waking up, as fixing a meal, as saying hello, and wiping a tear from a loved one’s eye. It all begins right where we are.

American culture does honor Thanksgiving–at least one day a year. But I think if we look around in our own lives we can find where gratitude is alive and well, or at least alive, in our families and communities-of-heart.  The roots of heart-centered culture begin right where we are.  We are the true America, redefining, remaking, redeclaring itself.

How do you offer Thanksgiving in your day, everyday? What are your thoughts and insights on gratitude? What are you grateful for right here and now? Please share your words here! We can all begin right where we are to bring our hearts/minds together as one ….


Below are two great children’s picture books on giving thanks.



  1. What beautiful thankfulness blooming here! There are so many things to be thankful for, it is good to keep this in mind on a regular basis if not every day. I am very thankful for my current health and for my relationship with my husband.

    Believe it or not I have read Some Place to be Flying, in fact I had it autographed by de Lint himself!

    You are so lucky to be going back, I envy you. When you do, tell the owls I will return one day, OK? For now I’m hanging out with the crows but my destiny will take me back to Vancouver Island.

  2. hello i am your partner for the mother henna exchange, nice to meet you
    have a good day

  3. Love you, Jane! Just so many hugs to you. I appreciate the people, the warmness in your eyes everytime I’m lucky enough to see you! xo

    Wanted also to be make sure everyone knows the holiday gift exchange partners are now posted:


  4. […] only the third day!) to press my hands against the earth, open my senses, express a silent Thanksgiving Address, and look and listen as the various birds and squirrels wake up, offer their songs and chatter, and […]

  5. […] engage in sense meditation and Thanksgiving, or engage in some spontaneous ceremony (the other day I created a “green fire” on my […]

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