unfolding into JOY

Gratitude Tree

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and i am looking forward to it. This year, i will celebrate Thanksgiving in mixed company, at a friend's house. Guests will come from different continents, walks of life, and with different backgrounds and orientations. Some are attuned with gratitude while others might not be. 

As a more recent immigrant, i have developed my relationship with Thanksgiving as an adult. My formative experience was a small gathering of 4 CIIS students. Together with a friend i drove out to Brentwood. After receiving a tour of the house and being offered a drink, we sat down together in a circle and i was initiated into the sweetness of Thanksgiving. Before any of the food was ready, we shared what we were grateful for. And that was not a matter of a couple of words or sentences. True to the level of sharing that we had become accustomed to at CIIS, our sharing opened up to deep inquiry. Each of us pondered and looked back to recall special moments of sweetness, support and joy. For me, it was an opportunity to reflect on what was important for me at that time. The hour we spent sharing impressed me deeply. Today, years later, it is still a vivid memory whereas all i remember about the food is that there was a good fruit pie, and that we had much more food than we could eat.

To this day, to me, Thanksgiving is a beautiful opportunity to tune into my blessings, in a circle of friends, and possibly friends of friends. And, over the years and in different circles, i have learned that not everyone is ready to share what they are grateful for. Among some groups, particularly in families, habits and focus center around the culinary aspect of the holiday. And that is very understandable. Smells and flavors make for strong memory imprints. It makes sense that all of you who grew up in this country have Thanksgiving memories from early childhood, when the senses registered far more strongly than the concept of gratitude did. Being aware of that, i have been wondering about how i can contribute to the gathering i will be a part of in a way that will casually invite in an atmosphere of gratitude. I came across a splendid idea: a gratitude tree.

What is a gratitude tree? 

gratitude tree
photo by Adriana Hartley, from her blog

The gratitude tree is a tree drawn or sculpted on a piece of paper or fabric, or directly on the wall. The tree starts out barren, without leaves, but leaves (either cut from paper or felt, or found in nature) and markers (or crayons) are offered next to the tree. Everyone in the Thanksgiving party is invited to mark leaves with things and beings they are grateful for and pin (or glue/tape) them to the tree. That way the tree comes alive and is bestowed with meaning. 

I love this idea! I already have a huge piece of construction paper ready and on Thursday i will glue crumpled tissue paper on it that i will mold into the shape of a tree. My friend will be collecting beautiful leaves. I am sure that the tree will draw attention and will naturally illicit curiosity when i arrive with it. I will have a chance to explain its purpose matter of factly, without lecturing. Everybody will have the opportunity to mark some of the leaves and pin them to the tree. My hope is that those to whom a gratitude ritual does not come easily will be drawn in to participate by the casual playful character of the gratitude tree. But nobody will be pressured. All during the appetizers the tree can grow. Then it will just be a question of how contagious our sharing is when the gratitude fans in the group begin to share. 

Perhaps the gratitude tree will inspire you to either emulate the idea or create a different ritual that everyone around your Thanksgiving table can participate in. Key is to find a way to engage and intrigue your family or circle of friends. The beauty of the tree is that everyone can be spontaneous and add leaves throughout the day. Then, during or after dinner, sharing can take exactly the form everybody is comfortable with. Everyone can say as much or as little as they are comfortable with.

Thank you for reading this article. I am grateful that you found your way to my blog and to reading this article.

Wishing you a lovely Thanksgiving! 



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Eva has been my coach for one and a half years. She has helped (and continues to help) me to become clear and see what I really want and need in my life. With Eva as my coach I have manifested more than I ever expected.
Chris C., Pennsylvania