The act of giving thanks is more than just a gesture of gratitude. It is a unique teaching moment. Indeed, by expressing appreciation for this or that we teach the world about what matters to us, about what is existentially significant for us. With this in mind, let me ask you this: what contributions to your well-being will you be reinforcing this year with your gratitude? Will you be showing gratitude for financial, material, logistical help you have received this year or will you be emphasizing the importance of the contributions of support, friendship and companionship?
If you are not sure, I have just a suggestion for you. But, first, let us go on a brief etymology safari by looking into the history of the words involved. Thanksgiving Day is a celebration of harvest. The English word harvest derives from the Sanskrit verb kerp which means “to gather, pluck, harvest.” (1) If the verb kerp (in the meaning of “harvest”) rings the bell, it’s because it is part of the oft-used Latin phrase carpe diem, which, of course, means “pluck (capture, harvest) the day (while it is ripe).”
Carpe diem is not just an invitation to make use of the moment; it is also a message of mindfulness, an invitation to harvest the here-and-now poignancy of the moment. I propose that this year you celebrate the harvest of mindfulness. If being mindful is, in fact, an existential value of yours, consider using your gratitude to express a special appreciation to those who helped you be more present and grounded during the year.
And as you accentuate the importance you place on mindfulness, consider giving mindfulness back. Thanksgiving dinner is an excellent starting opportunity for this. Indeed, Thanksgiving is the beginning of the national season of binge-eating which, of course, culminates on the New Year’s morning with various dieting resolutions. Let it be different this time. Model mindfulness during the Thanksgiving dinner with the help of social savoring. Instead of loading up your dish with favorites, sample the unfamiliar and invite a mindful discussion of what you are tasting. Make food the focus of the discussion. Let your significant others know that you are aiming to set a new precedent this year, that you are planning to be mindful, not mouthful. Share that your goal is to enjoy the Thanksgiving dinner without having to feel stuffed and regretful afterward. Instead of counting calories and planning a compensatory wellness blitzkrieg, focus on the experiential calories of the moment. Tune in to what is going on, to the connections that are being renewed and/or made anew over the Thanksgiving dinner table.
Consider suggesting to your family members to not overcook and not overdo with food preparations. Emphasize the idea of having a diversity of foods to sample, rather than making sure that there is enough food for seconds. Invite a discussion of past stories of Thanksgiving dinners. Take advantage of the fact that food connects people, places and things. Drag your family down that food memory lane. Shift the focus away from mindless overeating and onto the sentimental ties that have gathered the people you are with around the same Thanksgiving table. Capture the connections.
In short, dare to sow the seeds of mindful-not-mouthful eating and you just might be thanked a year from now for the legacy of mindfulness that you have brought to this year’s Thanksgiving table. Harvest the moment!
References: (1) Online Etymology Dictionary
Thanksgiving dinner photo available from Shutterstock
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Last reviewed: 21 Nov 2012