I wrote the following article for a newsletter run by Wilderness Awareness School, an nature connection organization I work for part-time. For those of you that have never heard of it before, the Thanksgiving Address is a way of acknowledging the world around you in gratitude. It is used to bring people together. And it’s pretty powerful.
The Thanksgiving Address is like an internal global positioning system.
A few years ago I had an experience that sent me reeling. I came home from a two-and-a-half month trip abroad, one that I wasn’t ready to come home from, and I experienced the very real sensations of integrating back into my day-to-day life. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I felt like a malfunctioning machine inside. All I wanted to do was go back overseas to Ireland.
And I did. Seven weeks later. I remember getting on the plane and being utterly terrified. What if I was crazy? Was I making a mistake? I went to the teeny tiny airplane bathroom and balled my eyes out. My return trip didn’t solve all of the internal troubles I was having. For the first time my back went out. I still had trouble sleeping (which was a totally new experience for me) and I fell into a depression. All in a foreign country.
You see, I’d encountered in my travels a new way of being and acting in the world that suited me. I learned how to be more spontaneous and more open to what I was finding. Every day was an adventure, an opportunity for connection and growth. I didn’t know how to bring that back with me to my old life where it seemed things didn’t quite fit any longer. So I went overseas again to recreate that experience.
Once I’d been back in Ireland for a week, I remembered a little something I’d learned called the Thanksgiving Address. Every morning when I awoke with a pit in my stomach and this overarching sense of being incredibly lost, I began to connect with what was going well or felt good in my life.
I was thankful for the ocean, and for being back in Ireland where I felt a connection to the landscape and the people that defied my reasoning. I was thankful for my friends. I made a list of their names to remind me that I was connected to people. I was thankful for my own creative and adventurous spirit.
I didn’t try to pretend to be grateful for things, like the pain in my body, or the people who were jerks to me back home. Or the earth, simply because it’s on the list of things to thank in the Thanksgiving Address. I reached into my heart and out into world, and I was honest. That felt good.
After my second week back I began to feel a sense of calmness and openness. It felt like I could think again and decide what was next in my life without being in a panic. The simple routine of tuning in to what I was grateful for made all the difference and got me moving and interacting with the world again in an authentic way.
Since then, I’ve been back to Ireland a third time, as well as to England, Scotland and Sweden. And I’m going again in May 2013 to run a yoga, nature, culture retreat that combines all of my passions into one. I feel lucky. The Thanksgiving Address helped guide me to this place and it continues to keep me moving in a direction that involves connection and awareness, which are both incredibly important to me.
What has been your experience of giving thanks? Have you ever used it to help you during a difficult time? Comment below.