Before sleep, I pray. Last fall, I realized that my prayers could be accurately described of as a wishlist of things I wanted the Divine to do for me. Help me to do this, please can I have that, etc. While I often would include thanks to the gods in my prayers it was almost always an afterthought. After I noticed this, I couldn’t stop noticing it, and it made me feel like I was praying incorrectly. I know that there is not right or wrong way to pray, but giving a list of demands to the gods didn’t really set well with me.
The pagan thanksgiving celebration is celebrated during the autumnal equinox in September. My women’s spirituality group got together for a ritual and a thanksgiving feast to mark the occasion last year. As part of the day, we placed on paper leaves the various things we were thankful for, then strung the paper leaves on a string and placed them on a tree outside. As the wind blew through the paper leaves, our prayer of thanks went out to the powers that be, at least until the first rainfall.
I realized during this ritual that I should be thankful every day. Having a special occasion to celebrate our thanks for the good things in life is a wonderful and necessary thing, but on a personal level, I felt it shouldn’t be only once a year. Also, by thinking of what I was thankful for every day, I thought that maybe I would start seeing the world a bit differently.
This isn’t a new idea. During Thanksgiving, someone usually brings up the idea that you should be thankful every day, not just on a holiday. People nod in agreement, but mostly this type of thing just blows right past us. For me, when someone says that on Thanksgiving, I usually think that the person needs to get off of their high horse and eat some stuffing. Someone eating stuffing is always preferable to a lecture on life lessons, especially because people have to discover certain things themselves, in their own time, in their own way. Thankfulness is one of those things that needs to be discovered as part of a person’s personal journey.
Everyone’s life has good and bad. I have a habit of focusing on the negative more often than the positive. Part of this is because when talking with others, focusing on the positive too much feels like bragging. I could tell you how I’m married to the best person on the planet and then list the ways in which my spouse is awesome, but at a certain point, it sounds not only like arrogant bragging, but it also becomes boring. However, telling you about the horrible person who waited on me at the store is more interesting somehow.
However, focusing so much time and energy on the negative in life, on what we lack instead of what we have, seems like a disservice to the gods and a disservice to ourselves. Part of why I switched my prayers to being thankful was because it made life a little bit more fun. I try to find three new things to be thankful about every day. Some days this comes very easy, other days it can be a bit of a challenge, but the challenging days are made better by trying to find some good in the chaos.
Some days I find something truly majestic and awe inspiring to be thankful about, such as the time I saw a bald eagle on Rt. 127. The eagle was standing in the middle of the road and flew away when my car approached. I was very close when the eagle flew away and it was beautiful and so unexpected I felt as if I had been given a gift. On another day, when it was bitterly cold, I saw a red tailed hawk sitting on top of a power line. He was puffed out due to the cold and resembled a football, which was both cute and amusing as he looked incredibly fierce and incredibly fluffy, two things that don’t often mesh well. Nature often has many fantastic and beautiful offerings for me to be thankful for.
Other times I find myself thankful for something small or seemingly inconsequential. For example, I am really thankful that my Netflix account has a Watch Instantly option. I love instant gratification, and when it comes to movies, often by the time the movie arrives at my house I am no longer in the mood to see it. Watching instantly fixes this problem. I am also thankful for the peanut butter cups that are egg shaped for Easter – they have the perfect chocolate to peanut butter ratio. Deep and meaningful? Not really, but they are things I love and am thankful for, so they get a mention.
By focusing throughout the day on what I am going to thank the gods for in my prayers, I find that I look at my day in a different way. Instead looking at the negative on focusing in on the bad things that happen, I focus on the positive. Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad days where I want to scream, but even on those days I can find three things to be thankful for. If I can’t I always have the old standby of being thankful for my spouse, my house, and my friends and family and my spouse, house, and friends and family are truly great, so there is a lot just in those three to be happy about.