Linda Neale's Blog

A thanksgiving gift from the Haudenosaunee

Linda Neale - Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gratitude is the beginning of knowledge and understanding”   Ted Williams, Iroquois elder

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice. Meister Eckhardt,  14th century Christian mystic

“I have imagined that the time will come when we will take up the purpose of human life once again.  I have imagined magnificent ceremonies in which…we will glory in it all, join together with the indigenous people of the Earth to offer thanksgiving, and resume our task of helping to keep the world going.”

Chellis Glendinning, psychologist and writer

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  It is based on a  tradition of sharing and giving between the indigenous people of this land and “the boat people”, as my husband calls us. Sometime in the 16th century, the Indians shared their bounty and knowledge of the animals and edible plants of the New World, so that those early immigrants could survive.  It’s good to remember this.

The holiday of Thanksgiving has the spiritual principle of gratitude woven into its very name.  Practicing this spiritual principle can make a tremendous difference to our mental health, our experience of life, and our experience of God.  The act of giving thanks is my primary spiritual discipline – and I do mean “discipline”.  It requires much discipline to not get trapped in the  suffering that is around us every day – in the media, in the words and attitudes of those we call friends, in the political climate, and in the pain we witness on Mother Earth.

Even when life seems dark, overwhelmed by pain and suffering, I force myself to find something to be grateful for.  Once, when my husband Rod was severely injured and in the hospital, I was definitely depressed and afraid for our future.  In the depths of those feelings, I happened to glance outside and saw five ducklings waddling next to their mother on the grass. I immediately said “thank-you”, and felt better.   As Rod has said many times, “We have so much to be grateful for.  Mother Earth gives us everything we need to live a good life.”  I try to remember his words.  The first thing I do on Thanksgiving morning (after drinking my coffee) is to make an exhaustive list of everything I feel grateful for.  I’ve saved these lists over the years, and they’re a good way to record one’s life

Where can we look for models of Thanksgiving?  The Haudenosaunee nation gave the world a great gift in the form of its “Thanksgiving Address”.    Earth & Spirit Council here in Portland has hosted two representatives of the Haudenosaunee – Ted Williams in 2003 and Jake Swamp in 2007.  Both of them shared the Thanksgiving Address with us and encouraged us to pass it on to others.  The Thanksgiving Address is a greeting to the natural world, and acknowledges all beings on the planet, the celestial bodies, the waters, the plants – all the gifts from the Creator.  Jake Swamp wrote down part of this Address in his book, Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message, although he told us that the real Thanksgiving Address actually continues for days.  I’ve attached a very short version of the address which you are welcome to use at your Thanksgiving celebration this week.  If you feel uncomfortable sharing this with others, I encourage you to simply stand in a circle with friends and family, and share one thing that you feel gratitude for -- something that is unique to you.

One thing I'm grateful for is that Ted Williams and Jake Swamp came to us and shared their beautiful prayer with the world.

Here's the link:  Thanksgiving Address

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