Many families take a moment to go around the Thanksgiving table to ask each person to say what they are grateful for. That is a wonderful practice to build upon. But too often there are some hidden injunctions that weaken the meaning of this practice, such as "don't talk for more than a sentence" or "be sure to say that you are grateful for something your parent, partner, child, etc. has done or been" or "don't go beyond the strictly personal or in any way make your ideas sound like they have an ethical/political demand connected to them."
Spiritual Progressives have a more expansive practice, and we encourage you to consider engaging in it, either at the Thanksgiving table, or if that is taboo or would cause too much heart-ache or feelings of disapproval or rejection, then you can try these by yourself as you take a walk outside or seek a quiet space inside before or after the Thanksgiving meal. We have some prayers/poems/meditations you might want to read at the table to everyone (at the bottom of this email) or you might want to just read to yourself. We even have a new version of "We Gather Together" (see below).
1. Write down the things, relationships, experiences, etc. for which you are grateful in your life, the life of your family, the reality of any communty you are part or in the larger planet on which you've been living.
2. Bring (and ask others to bring) your favorite poems and create a spontaneous [?] poetry reading. Or, ask each person to make copies of the poems they want to share so that they can be passed around to each person there. If you are alone, drench yourself in the poems that give you the most pleasure.
3. Rejoice in the opportunity you have to connect with other people who share your desire for a world that is less dominated by the domination and militarism-oriented "right hand of God" and more manifesting the love-filled, generosity-oriented, caring for each other and the planet kind of world. If in no other immediate way, you are connected to them through me and your local NSP or Tikkun magazine reading group (and if you don't have one, be grateful that you have the opportunity to connect to us at Tikkun so we can help you find the people who might want to be part of that kind of a group. Please don't discount this--it's frustrating and less fulfilling because it is rooted in a virtual reality--after all, that can be changed by your taking the initiative to create a local group.
4. Please remember and give some attention to the fact that 2.5 billion people on the earth don't have snought to eat and are in fact in deep crisis. We at Tikkun have a way to deal with that - -the Global Marshall Plan (check it out at www.tikkun.org/GMP ), but if you don't like our way, use Thanksgiving to talk with others at your Thanksgiving table about their ideas about how to deal with this massive problem.
And then do the same with the deepening destruction of the planet. Again, we have a strategy that begins with taking money out of politicsand demanding corporate environmental responsibility-- the ESRA (Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the US Constitution--please re-read it at www.tikkun.org/ESR A .
And do not let anyone at your celebration convince you that somehow talking about healing and transforming our planet are "too political" and hence have no place at Thanksgiving. On the contrary, one of the most real ways to be genuinely thankful is to engage in activities, and thinking, about how best to preserve and protect the miraculous universe of which we are all a small part. So political discourse and action are both totally relevant to Thanksgiving!
Please feel free to use the prayers/meditations below to further enrich your holiday celebration. And if you happen to be in the Bay Area this coming weekend, you are invited to study Torah with me in English at 951 Cragmont Ave, Berkeley, starting at 10 a.m. Saturday morning Nov.24 (admission: bring a main course vegetarian dish to share, or a check made out to Beyt Tikkun synagogue for $15 or more-more info at www.beyttikkun.org ).
The Thanksgiving Meditation, Prayer or Guided Visualization
(read and discuss this at whatever Thanksgiving celebration you attend):
Today we give thanks to this incredible universe for all the beauty, the goodness and the miracles that surround us every day and to which we have given too little conscious attention. And we celebrate the ability to be with friends, neighbors, family or others on this holy day of joyful appreciation of all the good in our lives.
Our beautiful and life-sustaining planet is in danger, so on this Thanksgiving we recommit ourselves to taking all steps necessary to reverse the processes that threaten the life-support systems of the planet, and to preserve the rich diversity of life forms and of beauty that we experience daily on planet earth. We are part of the unity of all being, a manfiestation of God's or Goddesses' or Spirit's loving energies. While we are alive, we recommit ourselves to making every day a mini thanksgiving in which we take time to celebrate the grandeur and mystery of being itself.
This is the right moment, then, for us to also put forward our prayers or intentions for a world of peace. We who recognize that our ability to live today enjoying all the benefits of North America was achieved in part through a genocidal struggle against the native peoples of this land are not willing to live through another period in which other peoples may be losing their lands to settlers or oppressive colonization.
This year it is hard not to be dismayed at the murdering that goes on between Israel and Palestine, and the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians. This Thanksgiving some of us commit ourselves to doing all we can to stop the conflict and to start the process of non-violent open-hearted reconciliation and peace. We reject the advice of the "political realists" who tell us that this struggle will go on forever, at untold levels of human suffering. Instead, we will urge our own government to build upon the recently concluded cease-fire by convening an international conference of the most powerful and spiritually responsible countries that can act together to build the new consciousness our planet so badly needs. First step: end the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza while providing an international peace force that will prevent any further acts of violence toward Israel or toward Palestine (the rest of the terms of what a lasting peace agreement would look like are already worked out in the Tikkun book Embracing Israel/Palestine). Second step, reject domination as a strategy and adopt instead the strategy of generosity by beginning to implement a Global Marshall Plan to once and for all end domestic and global poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education, inadequate health dare, and to repair the global environment.
Some of us. whether or not we believe in God or Goddess or Spirit, are Spiritual Progressives--that is, people who want the world to be reorganized in ways that promote love, kindness, generosity, ethical and ecological sensitivity, and awe, wonder and radical amazement at the grandeur and mystery of all that is.
We spiritual progressives believe that the real source of strength for any country or people will come from the degree to which its neighbors and the people of the world see that country as a source of generous love, social justice, peace, non-violence and generosity toward all and environmental sanity toward the earth.
So on this Thanksgiving we call upon the world to actively involve itself with bringing peace and prosperity to all places where violence and wars continue to be waged. We call upon the advanced industrial countries to launch a domestic and global Marshall Plan by dedicating 1-2% of the GDP of the economically advanced industrial countries of the world, the G-20, to be used to eliminate poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education, inadequate health care, and to repair the global environment--to be paid for by the trillions of dollars that will otherwise be spent on militarism and attempts to dominate and control the world.
We know that this approach will require major political changes, and that is why we support the Network of Spiritual Progressives' "Money out of Politics" campaign that goes way beyond affirming that corporations are not people and money is not speech. The ESRA also bans all private and corporate monies from national and state elections (check it out at www.spiritualprogressiives.org ). And we affirm the Unity of All Being, the oneness of all with all, and the fundamental interdependence of us who are celebrating Thanksgiving with all other people on the planet and commit ourselves to save this planet from environmental destruction.
And in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we affirm our dedication to being unrealistic for peace, social justice, environmental sanity, and a world based on love, caring, kindness and generosity. In so doing, we will make realistic what at first seemed to be unrealistic. And so it is. Amen. Written by Rabbi Michael Lerner
Prayer for the Children of Abraham/ Ibrahim Responsive reading by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat. You can follow her work at velveteenrabbi.com/. She is a poet, spiritual director, and the rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, MA.