November 22, 2016 Blog No Comments

ginkgo2This week most of us will take time to engage in a Thanksgiving ritual. We travel, gather family and friends, cook and eat to excess, all with limited attention to why. Even worse, it’s often followed by frenzied Black Friday holiday shopping. Wouldn’t you like to understand and embrace more heart felt meaning in this ritual?

History tells us that the first Thanksgiving festival was hosted in 1621 by the Plymouth colonists to celebrate their settlement and first successful corn harvest. Only half of the pilgrims had survived the arduous Atlantic crossing and a brutal winter on board the Mayflower.

The following fall, the Colonists’ governor invited their Native American allies, including the local Wampanoag Indians, to a feast to give thanks. An English-speaking Indian, named Squanto, had taught them how to cultivate corn, fish, tap sap from maple trees, and helped them develop a mutual alliance with the local tribe. This peaceful harmony between the Colonists and the Wampanoag Indians, the only one on record, lasted 50 years.

Later, several newly formed states, most notably New York, also honored a time of Thanksgiving. It wasn’t until 1789 that President George Washington issued the first governmental Thanksgiving proclamation, calling for an expression of gratitude for the end of the War of Independence and the ratification of the US Constitution.

Later still, in 1863, after writer and magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale had lobbied for 36 years, President Abraham Lincoln officially designated the last Thursday of November as a holiday. It was in the middle of the civil war, with the northern and southern states pitted against each other, that Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a day to “heal the wounds of the nation”. *

Giving Thanks Creates Healing Peace

Now, here we are centuries later, a country divided, unsettled by the conflictual and tenuous relationships with those around us, still very much in need of healing. We continue the tradition of Thanksgiving as a time to reflect on what brings us gratitude, even amid the uncertainty, just like our forefathers.

We have our country’s tumultuous history to thank for our freedom and our industrious countrymen immensurable gifts to thank for the enormous opportunities to make our lives what we want. We live in that grace, despite current events.

Giving Thanks Attunes Us To The Natural Rhythms of Nature

Wendell Berry, Kentucky’s prolific and masterful poet and author has a beautiful poem that reflects on times like these. He notes the power of nature to re-attune us to the smoother, more grounding rhythms of the natural world.

The Peace of Wild Things *

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

This holiday is an invitation to take a break – to slow down. It has been my family’s tradition to get into the woods, to hike and canoe. Can you use this time of thanks to reconnect to the natural world? Sit outside, take a walk, a hike, go to a beautiful place and rediscover how quickly your body syncs with the slower, gentler natural rhythms that are always around us.

Giving Thanks Expands Your Heart

When we are in a state of gratitude, our heart rate slows and we breath deeper. It literally expands you heart area and give you a greater sense of internal peace.

To make your heart glad, what can you give thanks for this holiday? My list is simple really, I give thanks for …

  • The bonds and love of family
  • Our dear friends and neighbors, who’ve cared for each other in word and deed over many decades
  • My relationship to the natural world in all its splendor, especially the 100 year old sycamore tree in my yard
  • The peace in our country; it’s a hard-fought gift from our ancestors
  • For the everyday luxuries that give our life ease, like hot running water, central heat, our many appliances and cars
  • The joy of learning, growing and having purpose filled work
  • The continual communion with the multi-layered spiritual world
  • The simple joy of just being

How can you honor the meaning and purpose of this holiday to anchor the rituals? We have an opportunity to lift ourselves up during this holiday. If we take it, we will lift everyone around us and create a ripple effect of open heartedness.

I wish you a heartfelt holiday. If there is anything that resonates for you that’d you’d like to explore, reach out.  My Transformation Life Coaching and Counseling helps you discover the answers to your life’s questions. Also, in a couple of weeks, I’ll be hosting a workshop to honor your rites of passage over the last year. Friday Dec. 2nd, 6:30pm at Centered – “Manifestation Review – Celebrate Your 2016 Accomplishments”. Let me know if you’re interested. See for more details. I look forward to hearing from you.


Berry, Wendell “The Peace of Wild Things”, New Collected Poems, Counterpoint Press 2012. Page 79

Written by Connie Milligan, LCSW
If there is anything I’ve expressed that speaks to you, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at my email, connie [at] conniemilligan [dot] com