Everyone knows that Thanksgiving is the holiday of gratitude, ever since the Pilgrims supposedly tipped their broad-brimmed hats in appreciation back in 1621. (Whether they actually did is beside the point.) Certainly since I was a child, I've been admonished each fourth Thursday in November to recognize everything that has graced my life.
I do adore the abundance I currently have. But what is lost in most Thanksgiving blessings, and what I think is equally important for me to focus on this year, is to also give thanks for what will be coming into my life down the road.
Here are three reasons why I think you should appreciate your future, too:
1) Focusing hopefully on the future makes you feel good right now. There's a huge body of research on the benefits of optimism -- how it prevents heart disease and colds, and even deepens your marriage. But equally important, I believe, is the joy that you bring to the present moment whenever you eagerly anticipate what's ahead. There's a reason the wrapped holiday gift you have not yet opened feels infinitely more exciting than once you've seen the sweater or the CD, or why being the proverbial kid eyeing everything in the candy shop is better than after you've eaten that huge bag of chocolate. The notion that life is a journey and not a destination, cited by everyone from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Aerosmith, speaks to the reality that from the minute we're born, we're always heading someplace new. Regardless of what life is dishing out to you at this moment (whether it's terrible or terrific), wonderful things may lie ahead. Focusing on -- and appreciating -- how delicious those things will feel, even if as yet you have no idea what they are or how they're coming, makes the present moment more divine.
2) Looking back brings a jumble of emotions. I have spent many Thanksgivings where everyone goes around the table naming something we each are grateful for. Inevitably, someone would mention how glad they are to be out of a bad marriage or a terrible job. Suddenly, the joyful moment is laden with heavy memories of years of emotional abuse or extreme stresses. Pondering where you now are easily dredges up thoughts of how you got here, only some of which are good. But why relive the problems of your past, especially at a time you are trying to be happy? There's so much more power in decreeing that the awful detours you may have endured served their purpose of prodding you into the place you now reside, without giving energy to them. In fact, the spiritual teacher Esther Hicks says she prefers the word "appreciation" to "gratitude," because the latter carts up the struggles that got us here, while appreciation comes from a purer place of joy.
3) Pondering a positive future encourages its appearance. In his classic, "This Thing Called You," Religious Sciences' founder Ernest Holmes writes, "There is a silent power of attraction within me which is irresistible... I know that that particular thing [that I want] is transpiring in the invisible at this very moment, and that it will become a part of my visible experience." Even if you don't believe in the law of attraction -- the spiritual notion that your beliefs energetically attract all experiences and objects that come to you -- you undoubtedly know that being hopeful about what's around the bend exerts an influence on your current actions. When I think that sending a query to an editor about a magazine article I want to write will yield a lucrative assignment, I'm much more likely to spend time researching and crafting the perfect pitch. Similarly, when I feel optimistic that a book reviewer will love my novel, I don't delay putting it in the mail. These actions, and others done from a place of hope, increasing the odds the things I desire will come to pass.
So this Thanksgiving, as you prepare your sweet potato pie or when you go around the table giving thanks, spend at least part of the time describing with eager anticipation all that you hope to bring into your life. Give thanks not only for what you now have, but for all the beautiful, brilliant experiences that are heading you way. Happy holiday!
Meryl Davids Landau is the author of the new spiritual women's novel, "Downward Dog, Upward Fog," which was recommended by Yoga Journal's Buzz Blog and the "Science of Mind" national newsletter. ForeWord Reviews calls the novel "an inspirational gem that will appeal to introspective, evolving women." Read excerpts at www.DownwardDogUpwardFog.com. Meryl also writes for O: the Oprah Magazine, Whole Living, Reader's Digest and other national magazines.
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