Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bounty Hunters

It’s the occupation of Stephanie Plum, the wacky Janet Evanovich character in her numbers novels (One for the Money, Two for the Dough). I love her crazy antics and terminal ineptitude as she bumbles through life with a cast of equally hilarious characters trying to catch the bad guys or gals who have jumped bail.

Most of us are a different kind of bounty hunters. We seek the fruits of a life well lived: good food, good friends, a fabulous family, a comfortable lifestyle, and a sense of purpose.

One of my favorite symbols is the cornucopia, the horn of plenty. The harvest celebrates abundance, one of the main purposes of the feast, Thanksgiving.

But there is another even more important purpose—the thanks.

From the earliest age, as tiny toddlers, “please” and “thank-you” are among the first words we learn. I wonder why I bother with the child who doesn’t even let me know my gift arrived, much less says thanks. I’m much more willing to keep giving to people that acknowledge my efforts.

The universe works the same way. The more we say thank-you, the more it wants to give.

That’s why it’s important to develop your sense of gratitude all year long. Gratitude isn’t a season. It’s a way of life.

The word Christians use for communion—Eucharist—means thanksgiving. Catholics have a concept of being Eucharist to each other, which is the ultimate “being there” for someone. They can rely on each other in community to meet all those needs that the cornucopia represents. I’m sure there are many other traditions that uphold this concept of each feeding others, and in doing so, becoming the food that never stops giving—a perpetual loaves and fishes—in a divine domino effect of loving kindness.

To get that relationship with All That Is, you have to be part of the giving—starting with giving thanks.

Developing an attitude of gratitude isn’t just easy; it’s fun. Here are my two favorite bounty boosters:

• Every day, or as often as possible, write in your journal at least 10 things you’re thankful for. They can be of any size or subject—it didn’t rain today, I got a raise, my cat kissed me on the nose. Whatever it is, when you write it down, you send out waves of attraction for more good of the same kind.

• Create a gratitude box. Do the same thing as often as possible, only write them on slips of paper. They become your a self-made cornucopia. Especially on a blue day, you can dip into the box and find one, two, or fifty of your blessings. You know the old song Bing Crosby song from White Christmas, Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep. Why not? Toss the Lunesta. Visit your personal gift box instead, even if it’s just the one in your mind.

Gratitude is a simple awareness of the blessings all around us … how much good there is when we have the eyes to see it and bother to say hello to the Source.

Let this Thanksgiving kick off the next 365-day cycle of bounty hunting. To get really radical, and possibly to focus more on gratitude than gluttony, here’s one last exercise. Before dessert, draw names out of a hat of everyone present. Go around the table. Each person then expresses their gratitude to the one they have drawn. It can be for something he or she has done during the year or some ongoing quality or action.

Not only will this give your poor, overtaxed digestive system a rest before assaulting it with pumpkin pie; I have a hunch it’ll become a new tradition and the new whip cream.

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