Giving Thanks
By Loba



"Despair cannot stand in the face of awakened appreciation - and the first step towards increased gratitude is for us to notice more... to better notice and linger on the seasons' signature smells, the lessons every twist of fate affords, the hungers that put us in touch with our bodily needs and aesthetic or sensuous desires. And the very fact of being aware, sentient, responsible, and oh so vitally alive."
- Jesse Wolf Hardin

The holidays are a time of sharing and gratitude, but then, so can every day be. For all our fears over the financial crisis or worries over health, even the most unfortunate of us can awake each morning to a life and world we can in many ways be grateful for, and every meal can be a moment of not only of sweet savoring but deep feelings of thanks.

"Thank you Spirit. Thank you earth, and the food you give," our little Rhiannon has us say before eating. "Thank you fire and trees, for your needed heat. And thank you canyon home, for the blessings of another day, "we intone, before lifting our joined hands to pronounce it another "Happy, happy day!" 

To complete a self-designed ritual, our daughter then gets everyone at the table to throw back their heads and howl like excitable wolves. Now that's gratitude for you, echoing off the rock cliffs outside the dining room where we eat!

Rhiannon has been a great example in a lot of ways since I started co-parenting her last year, and the way she pours her heart into her prayers is just one of them. But then, while I have had and still have trouble with a whole lot of other things, being appreciative has never been one of them.

When I was younger I was even grateful for things I maybe shouldn't have been so accepting of, like relationships that weren't meaningful enough and a lifestyle that definitely didn't serve my spirit and soul.

Then again, everything that happens to us - good and bad - is potentially a blessing, because it can serve as a lesson, a strengthening test and unexpected gift. All the world is giving to us, and even during our hardest times we can be thankful for life, the ability to learn and the opportunity to feel.

Even on our deathbed we can be grateful for this glorious joyride of pain and bliss, connection and reward. I hope to be conscious of and thankful for my last breath, as for every possible breath until then.

Looking around me now in my thirties, the blessings of my life bring tears to my eyes. I'm grateful to get to wake up nearly every day in this canyon wildland, and to live each moment humbled by the wonder of the spirits and beings that surround me. To feel how my own bare feet caressing stone and sand, reawakens a bodily memory of the ancient peoples that walked in awe beneath the canopies of cottonwood and willow before me.

I'm both thankful and honored to get to continue a tradition of serving, protecting and celebrating this place of pilgrimage, and to feel myself as one answer to the prayers of the inspirited land. I'm awed to get to sing with all my heart those wordless melodies that seem to rise up from the very ground, and to get to hear the canyon singing back to me in a voice that is at once ours and hers.

My heart is thrilled to have learned how to love myself deeply in spite of self-doubt ingrained from the time I was a small child. Thrilled to know my own gifts, and to have no illusions about my personal difficulties and challenges... and to feel so supported in sharing my gifts and the gifts of my inspirited home with the larger world.

"Take it in, take it in, this is the day, it will not come again!"
- The Waifs

Everyone lives very busy lives these days, even out here in this wilderness seemingly outside of time. For that reason it can be hard for us to set aside the moments necessary for noticing and reflecting on the blessings unfolding around us. With so much to tend it can be easy to get overwhelmed and miss the many little miracles of our relationships and surroundings, homes and towns.

Many of the women who pilgrimage here come to realize they take their selves and their accomplishments for granted, focus on failings and uncompleted tasks, and let meals and moments go by without paying them enough mind. They're often surprised just how long it's been since they deeply felt and focused on their satisfaction and appreciation, and it's been a pleasure watching as they get wholly back in touch with both their vital experiencing of magical existence and their gratitude for all that it brings.

Ana from Maine comes to mind, crying after her quest about all the things she had neglected due to her fears, crying from joy at having reconnected to her inherent feelings of ecstatic gratitude so long submerged, thankful for the sensitivity and visions she had been given and the mission she then knew she could succeed at.

Many of the things I do each day could be considered tedious by some people. Living off the grid with no running water - and loving to cook as I do - I end up spending a large portion of each day simply taking care of food, my beautiful clothes, rain water collection and dear kitchen. Nothing I do, however, could be called a "thankless chore."

Besides, whether anyone else acknowledges our work or not, no task is ever thankless if we ourselves are grateful that it's getting done. Because of that, I try to remember to thank myself for every piece of clothing I've mended or lovingly washed, for every time I clean the kitchen floor or sweep out old and unhealthy thought patterns.

A cup of tea, a few minutes sitting on the porch swing and a float in the river are often intentional thanks to myself for doing a good job tending to the needs of my home, my loved ones and our students and guests. You might ask yourself as well, "How can I, each day, best acknowledge and reward myself for all that I am, feel and do?"

Standing on a rock ledge above the river, I sing my thanks to the canyon I'm a part of as well. To the rains whose water I drink, the sun that keeps me warm and powers this laptop I write on, and the wild greens that I'll gather tonight to eat. To Spirit by whatever name, and to the ways she speaks through the land and its plants and creatures as well as through telling events. To the four directions, and what I've come to call my center.

Join me in giving thanks for both the struggles and benefits of everything that happens to us, the difficulty as well as the ease, and not just our sweet comforts but the way discomfort stirs us to awaken or to change. Forth satisfaction of being loved, and the opportunity to love.

For every single hug. For union and solitude, strength and vulnerability, youth and aging, sickness and health, empathy and discernment. For having the capacity to feel and to know, and the opportunity to embrace all the mystery and wonder of the universe through our minds and bodies.

I'm personally thankful, and there's no hiding it!  Thankful to Awareness Magazine, for developing this venue for our healing visions and voices. Thankful to every person making the effort to understand and express their authentic selves, or encouraging others to understand and express theirs.

Thankful to everyone valuing their own natures as well as the natural world, and for knowing that they're one and the same thing.... extensions of an inseparable sensate world.

Our problems and concerns don't disappear when we are appreciative, but we achieve a healthful balance through noticing what is good, helpful, beautiful and right. As we join hands here around our canyon table tonight, I stretch my arms out to you, inviting you to join in shared gratitude for all we are and all we are sure to be!

Special thanks go to you for exploring and then applying what you know. For connecting and opening and engaging, singing and dancing, learning and teaching, painting and praying. For resisting what needs resisting, while surrendering to love and purpose.

For motivating, sharing, protecting, nurturing, ritualizing and celebrating. And finally, thank you for listening... to these words, to your knowing hearts and this earth of which we're a grateful part.

This howl is for you... Oh happy, happy day!

Loba is an inspiring cookbook author and teacher of Animá. She and her partners offer empowering Medicine Woman, Shaman and Path of Heart correspondence courses. Together they tend an enchanted wilderness sanctuary and ancient place of power in the inspirited Southwest, hosting retreats, vision quests, student internships, apprenticeships and events: Anima Retreat Center & Women's Sanctuary, Box 688, Reserve, NM 87830. Visit:


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