I’m one of those people for whom every day is Thanksgiving. It’s not that I don’t complain, though I’m learning there are much better things I can do with my creativity (and improving the world is an important aspect of karma yoga). It’s that I’ve noticed my natural tendency to appreciate the community around me, my level of physical comfort, and the privileges I have.
I mean, simple things. I can afford to take the runaway cat who’s come to live on my porch to the vet. I can afford to eat any food that I want. My business does well enough that I can afford to have a lot of help, and I’m grateful to be able to offer that help back to you as this place of refuge. I am grateful that all of us, the family of people around me, who offer our work to you do it for some reason other than getting paid. (It’s fabulous to get paid, but there are better and more fulfilling ways to motivate ourselves.)
I’m grateful every time I throw the bolt lock on my front door and set a little boundary between me and the world. I’m grateful when I feel so exposed to the universe that it’s like my apartment has no ceiling. I’m grateful that I have a conscience and that I use it every time I make a decision. I am grateful to have a natural respect for the truth, and the gift to allow that to be the only thing that matters.
I don’t have to ‘make myself’ think about these things; it’s a matter of being mindful, and understanding what nourishes and sustains me. And I’m grateful that I’m not somebody who has to ‘do good’ but rather someone who understands that my existence is a benefit to the world (a fact I learned in therapy), which is a great purpose to embrace: it’s a useful kind of self-esteem. I understand that in any situation I find myself, I am the person who has the power to be helpful; embracing that purpose as a conscious act, I don’t have to worry so much about who I might hurt, because that’s not my role. I am grateful that I know my limits and that I don’t have to do everything.
I love things like clean clothes and computers that work; I love lenses that are the product of a century of craftsmanship that help me create the photo I see in my mind, which I can then share with you. I am grateful for everyone who shows up in my studio, takes off their clothes, invites me to take pictures — and has a natural experience of life, of playing, of freedom.
I am grateful for Marshall McLuhan, who told me when I was a kid that all you need is a typewriter and a copy machine and you’re a publisher.
I am grateful to my parents who despite everything gave me the basic tools that I need to stand up in the world, and to the world. I am grateful to every therapist and practitioner and author and artist who helped me get past the damage of my childhood and be a full-grown adult, capable of spontaneous love, creativity and community. Every time I share my knowledge with you, I remember my teachers, and I am grateful to be tossing another pebble into the lake of dharma, letting the ripples reach out to every shore.
This stuff is simple.