Long after Thanksgiving is over, two things endure - the feeling that I couldn't possibly eat another piece of turkey...and, more importantly, a deep sense of gratitude.
It will come as no surprise, then, to learn that I recently picked up a book called GRATITUDE by Oliver Sacks. It's a quartet of essays that he wrote in the last two years of his life. Despite his struggles battling cancer, he chose to highlight his immense gratitude - something he felt not only through that ordeal, but through his entire life.
Here's what he says about the gifts of old age:
One has had a long experience of life, not only one's own life, but others' too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies, booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great achievements and deep ambiguities... One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty.
And he concludes:
I do not think of old age as an ever-grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time...freed from the urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.
As you gather with loved ones this holiday season, I invite you to allow gratitude to fill your spirit and lead you into the New Year. How? Let Merlin guide you.
While Merlin is beloved around the world as a legendary wizard, the Merlin I've written many books about is also a real human being. He has struggles, sorrows, joys, and aspirations - and, hidden deep within him, a remarkable gift. In that way, Merlin is no different from all of us: he is burdened by the human experience, while at the very same time exalted by it.
All of us have hidden struggles - and hidden potential. And all of us, like the great wizard Merlin, have something special within us. No matter how many obstacles we face, we still have the ability to reach for the stars. We can strive, create, love, hope, sing, be kind, and work to build a better world.
Recently, I wrote a book about Merlin's seven most magical words, THE WISDOM OF MERLIN: 7 Magical Words for a Meaningful Life. I purposely chose Gratitude to be the first of those words. Here's a passage that explains why:
Gratitude is a good place to begin to make a meaningful life. To be wholly alive is to be grateful--for every breath we take, every song we sing, every person we love, every day we discover.
All we have--truly all we have--is our time and our souls. Even if you live as long as a wizard, that time is really very brief. It's never long enough to do all you can do and be all you can be.
Each day, take a moment to love a person, a place, or an idea that touched your heart. Cherish those blessings through all the seasons of a year--and all the seasons of your life.
My favorite place to feel grateful is in nature--under a starry sky in Colorado wilderness, by the vast ocean at the Great Barrier Reef, or in a grove of towering redwoods in California.
Here's the miracle of such places: With nature's wonders all around, I feel both very small and very large at once--diminished and humbled by my own insignificance, while also enlarged and inspired by the vast sweep of creation. And both you and I belong to that creation! For we are all made from miracles, no less than the stars themselves.
One of humanity's great challenges is to embrace nature without suffocating it--to treat our natural home with appreciation, not exploitation. We have been given the garden planet of the universe--and we can either nurture or devour it, protect or destroy it.
Fortunately, we have one great advantage in facing any challenges: ourselves. We can accomplish anything if we truly devote ourselves to the task.
And that, my friend, is worthy of our gratitude.