Give Thanks for EVERYTHING In Your Life

Thanksgiving red corn

As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US I find myself in an interesting space with lots of opportunity for personal growth. This is the first Thanksgiving since my wife and I separated. So my daughter, Ella, and I will be hosting a small gathering at our house. We’ll be with some wonderful friends celebrating and offering our gratitude for the blessing in our lives.

But, even knowing this, as Ella and I spent time yesterday preparing for the holiday – shopping, cleaning, etc., – I felt a deep sadness threatening to overwhelm me: For the first time in 8 years I will not be celebrating the holiday with Melissa. And for the first time in at least 3 years, we will not be traveling east to join in the celebration with my parents, siblings and other family members.

While the holidays are “marketed” as a time of joy and love, they can also catalyze emotions at the other end of the emotional spectrum including sadness, grief, depression, anger and more. When these “darker” emotions show up, especially around the holidays, there can be a tendency to push them away. After all this is a time of giving thanks, a time for celebrating and appreciating family and friends. This is not the time to be grappling with sadness.

At least that’s what the prevailing “wisdom” says.

Yesterday, I found myself listening to that wisdom and attempting to deny the sadness. It was easy to justify the pushing away: I’ve already done plenty of grieving over the dissolution of our family. There’s no need for more. Especially not at this time of giving thanks.

I should be focusing on all of the blessings in my life, right?

Yes. Absolutely.

Of course the trap that most of us fall into is to give thanks for the things that we like while avoiding, denying or suppressing that which we don’t enjoy quite so much.

Perhaps we are thankful for the new car you have, but don’t feel quite so grateful each time we write the check to pay the car loan each month.

Maybe we give thanks for the way our partner holds us while we’re falling asleep, but don’t feel quite so grateful when he or she leaves dirty dishes in the sink.

Or perhaps, like me, you are grateful for the joy the holiday season brings, but not so willing to embrace the feelings of sadness that may also arrive.

Yesterday I got to watch myself turning my back on the sadness, attempting to push it back down into the shadows. I observed myself eating when I wasn’t hungry. I watched myself go shopping for Thanksgiving dinner and buy way more food than we needed. I saw myself calling friends, seeking the solace of connection.

And in all of these activities I was aware of my desire to fill the deep sadness and emptiness I felt inside.

It was not until late last night, after Ella was asleep, that I was able to let go of the resistance and allow myself to fully embrace that sadness.

The key for me was to stop running from the sadness, and to acknowledge it, appreciate it and allow it to flow, unrestricted, through me. And the interesting, though not surprising, thing is that as soon as I released my resistance, the intensity of the experience immediately decreased.

Once my resistance was gone, and the sadness could flow through me, unencumbered, there was no more pressure building up inside of me. Just like a river that encounters a fallen log on its journey to the ocean, my sadness encountered resistance in its path and had no choice but to push against it.

If you’ve ever seen a river smashing up against an obstacle you’ve seen how powerful that force can be. And if you have ever attempted to cross a river with a decent current you have actually felt that power.

Emotion is an equally powerful force.

It can be helpful to think of emotion as E – Motion or Energy in Motion. When you attempt to block or resist the emotional flow of energy it is like building a damn of logs and rocks in a very strong river: It might last for awhile, but eventually the force of the current is going to go over, around or through that resistance.

And when that happens, there’s going to be a big mess downstream as all of those rocks and logs start bashing into things as they get pushed along by that initial blast. And the longer you have been building that dam, the bigger the explosion will be.

Been there, done that!

In the past, I have been very good at resisting emotions. I became an expert at building dams and shoring them up as the pressure builds: Piling on more and more logs and boulders to hold that Energy in Motion back. And I have experienced the explosive destruction that happens when that dam finally breaks. When that happens there is nothing to do except hold on and hope you can ride out the wave without getting pounded by the tumbling rocks and logs!

Yesterday, when I realized what I was doing, I consciously chose to move the resistance out of the way and let the sadness continue on its journey. The beautiful thing is that when you take conscious control of the process, you can choose, to a certain extent, how much of that E-motion you want to flow.

There is, without a doubt, some unpredictability to emotion, but when you stop resisting it, and start acknowledging and appreciating it, you can choose to open up the flow bit by bit rather than all at once.

One of the keys, along with acknowledgment, is appreciation. When you appreciate your emotions, yes, all of them, you immediately dissolve the resistance. Resistance and appreciation cannot coexist.

Now you might wonder why you would want to appreciate sadness. After all, sadness doesn’t feel good. Right?

Wrong.

It’s not the sadness that feels bad, it’s the resistance to the sadness that feels bad.

Release the resistance and the E-Motion can move again. And any time emotions are flowing – the energy is in motion – it feels good. Yes, even sadness!

The strange thing I’ve discovered is that when I release my resistance and allow myself to really dive into the sadness, it actually feels good. Often, I find that the tears of sadness lead seamlessly into tears of joy. At some point, as the tears flow, I realize they have shifted from sadness to joy.

Not always. Sometimes it is just sadness that needs to flow. And that is all right as well. Because when the resistance is gone and the energy of sadness can be in motion, it does not get stuck anywhere. No pressure builds up and that movement of energy is awakening.

So my encouragement for you on this Thanksgiving is to appreciate everything in your life. Along with all of your obvious blessings, look to appreciate the blessings that come to you in “disguise.”

Appreciate the mess you have to clean up to get your house ready for the family. Appreciate the mess they leave after Thanksgiving dinner. Appreciate all the ways your family manages to get under your skin. Appreciate the arguments and the hugs, the bickering and the banter. Appreciate it all.

Yes, even appreciate any sadness or anger that comes up. Appreciation is the process that dissolves resistance. Appreciation removes those logs and boulders and allows your energy to flow – ALL of your energy.

And the amazing thing is that when you appreciate everything in your life, you begin to find more and more people, experiences, emotions, thoughts and things coming into your life to appreciate.

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    9 Responses to “Give Thanks for EVERYTHING In Your Life”

    1. julie on November 26th, 2008 12:06 pm

      hi ed…i honor you and appreciate your very beautiful words. i am holding a space for you in my heart during this time. as i read your words i found myself doing deep yogic breathing and remembering times past when i have been “in that place” feeling like it was bigger than me or bigger than i could handle and taking all of it to my yoga mat, feeling it, breathing it and allowing it. the transformation that occured through allowing was wonderful. i am so moved by your words that i am off to my mat right now. many blessings to you and ella.

      om shanti, om peace
      jul

    2. Aruni on November 27th, 2008 7:12 am

      Wonderful post Ed. I can certainly relate as I am one to try to block uncomfortable emotions by thinking about things too much…it rarely works and then upheaval happens. I’m trying to work on accepting my emotions (a la Power of Now) but it’s so challenging since I was raised to sort out everything in my head. But when the heart takes over it’s much stronger and all the times I block it just ends up in more angst.

      I’m at a crossroads in my life right now and it will be interesting to see if I can let my heart rule instead of my brain or maybe at least a little more heart and a little less brain. 🙂

      Happy Thanksgiving!

    3. Tatiana on November 27th, 2008 2:12 am

      Thank you Ed,
      I always take some time to read your messages because they are so profound, this particular one is so appropriate to my present experience that I am copying it to read it again. I am spending Thanks Giving without my children and I was not even thinking about it as a special day; I have been pushing away all thoughts on the subject. I feel fortunate that I am invited to a Thanks Giving party with my friends.
      I came back to the US in July, before that I was living abroad with my husband and my two boys, but I was very unhappy with the education they were getting, so I enlisted the support of good friends from my college so that I could come and look for a job. Everything worked out, so I arranged for my 9 year old son to stay abroad with my mom, and my 14 year old went to live with his dad in Houston, my husband is not American and he has to wait for me to get established before he can come with our 9 year old. I quickly found a job but got laid off almost as quickly because of this economic situation.
      Being away from my two children and having lost the job I need in order to bring them to live with me has left me in a semi-paralyzed state. I procrastinate a lot and I start doing things that I leave half done, yet I don’t want to give up; I want my children to be able to live in the US like I did when I was growing up, and I want to keep trying, but something is keeping me from taking effective action, maybe it is this effort to be cheerful.
      Fortunately I have one thing to look forward to: my 14 year old son is coming to spend Christmas with me, he chose to do that rather than spending it with his dad’s big and fun family because he wants to be with me, even if it’s just the two of us without many gifts. I spent today baking cookies in anticipation of his arrival.
      I just want you to know that I feel that your advice is already helping me come out of my semi-paralysis. You are doing a great job helping me to keep going with a healthy perspective in these tough times, and I am taking your advice to heart.

    4. Ed Hardy on November 29th, 2008 10:38 am

      I am always reminded in times like these to count your stock and be thankful for all that you have. There is always hope!

    5. Claudia on December 2nd, 2008 8:27 pm

      Thank you so much, Ed, for sharing your deepest thoughts, feelings, emotions, and wisdom. That took a lot of courage, and I am grateful for your words as I, too, am in a similar situation. It always astounds me how so many of us share such similar human experiences. It feels so good to know that I am not alone. I am sending you lots of white light energy for healing and joy.

    6. Sharon Ann WIkoff on December 2nd, 2008 10:06 pm

      Dearest Ed ~
      Your thoughts and insights have come to me several times over the Thanksgiving holiday. I was deeply moved by the depth of your insights…and the amazing articulation of your feelings and thoughts. I hope that your time with your daughter was very very special. Sending you much love as you move forward on your journey… Sharon

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    8. Shelly on December 4th, 2008 9:56 pm

      Loved this post. Beautiful. Thank you!

    9. HealthandMindJunkie on January 2nd, 2009 1:11 pm

      Thanks for this post, Ed. Both my parents died some years back. My mother has been gone for 12 years, my father for 5 and every holidays, I still feel the pang of sadness remembering them.

      There´s a part of me that wonders what it would be like if they were still alive. A part of me that really wishes they are here to meet my husband and my 1 year old son.

      I believe that it´s ok to embrace sadness and pain. As long as you are able to move one step higher, look all around you and be thankful for everything that you have at the moment. I always think I´ve got a wonderful family, great in-laws, a good relationship with my sisters and great friends. I think that if my parents are looking at my life now, they would be very happy. And that always makes me smile.

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