Plug into Bliss Part 3: giving thanks
Those of you who are regular readers will know that each November, in Thanksgiving week, we send out a Perspectives Post on this theme, and that I will also be hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner here in London.
This year will be our 13th celebration. It began back in 2010 when two of my American friends couldn’t get home for Thanksgiving, and I blithely offered to cook the dinner. I’d assumed it was basically a turkey and trimmings. How naïve and wrong I was! I discovered there are, not only regionally, but also within each family, deeply entrenched expectations of what must be served with the turkey. As in all cultures, this ritual of ‘breaking bread’ together has profound nostalgic and emotional resonance.
In keeping with the American custom, we observe the tradition of sharing what we are thankful for. I love this ritual: it is a meaningful pause as we approach the end of the year, allowing us a moment to reflect on the year behind us before the sparkling merriment of December and the hopes and wishes of the forthcoming year.
There have been years when giving thanks has been joyous and easy, when the festival catches us in a happy moment in our lives. And there have been years when it has been tough, when some of us are in a place of adversity or sorrow and sharing has been painful. Either way we have learned not to sit in isolation. That to share the happy and also the sad times in our lives is what brings us even closer. And this year with all the turbulence and change that we have experienced these last 3 years, reconnecting with this annual ritual feels even more precious and grounding.
I wrote the first ‘Plug into Bliss’ Post in September, following 3 weeks away from the UK which gave me time to unhook from these intense 2.5 years of living in central London. I arrived back with clear eyes and a fresh perspective and was immediately shocked to see how miserable people have become here, how the events of the last few years have had a profound impact on our mindset and how complaining, arguing and rudeness have become the habit and norm in our culture.
In Plug into Bliss, Part 1, I wrote:
‘To counter this culture of grumpiness, we have to make a psychological gearshift, be disciplined to stop our own litany of complaints, and focus on moments of joy i.e., we need to unplug from misery and plug into bliss!
We all have a capacity for joy: psychologically we call this our ‘Free Child’ and it is the only place within us where we can experience a visceral, not cerebral, awe and wonder. We are born with this gift of joy but, as we grow older, we often internalise negative messages from significant others that form our inner ‘Critical Parent’, that judgmental, harsh voice which insidiously attacks our self-esteem.’
I subsequently realised that my own plugging into bliss wasn’t going to be a quick turnaround. Our inner psychological resistance to change is always stronger than our desire for true transformational change. It’s why habits are very hard to break.
So I decided to keep chronicling and wrote a follow up about my experience of reconnecting with my own Free Child over the intervening weeks:
My Free Child is very sweet, wise and gentle. She loves to play, dance, giggle and have fun. She loves stories in all forms: book, film, theatre, oral etc. She loves being cosy and she loves to be in stillness. She loves nature and being connected to the magic of the Universe. She loves harmony and is not fearful but very trusting and open and she loves and connects very easily. She sees the best in people, and this brings her great joy.
I found it’s like a muscle I’ve not used for a while, and I kept forgetting to listen to her. As I explored this, I realised that my Free Child needs help from other aspects of myself to bring internal integration and wholeness… So, my Free Child also needs my ‘Conscious Adult’ to navigate the external world and make sense of the whole and big picture. Plug into Bliss Part 2: a dance of ever renewing delight
I’ve since learned that my Free Child is very happy staying in the present and doesn’t worry about the future. (That’s for my ‘Conscious Adult’ to sort out who is increasingly highly equipped to do so!) My Free Child doesn’t know what worry is. It’s why the practice of meditation, being in ‘stillness’ and other techniques of anxiety-calming, all focus on what we can control: our breathing and staying in the ‘now’.
And I’ve also learned that my Free Child focusses purely on all that is good and healthy in her life, from the tiny blessings to the great. I’ve learned that Bliss is a state of grace.
So, as we approach this year’s Thanksgiving, where am I after yet another powerfully life-transforming year? What am I thankful for in 2022?
Last year, in our November 2021’s Thanksgiving Post I wrote:
‘My first wish for 2021 was: ‘To continue deepening my relationships, including new ones’. After my experience of being in isolation in 2020 I yearned for deeper connection and intimacy. To do so, I had to change. I had to accept how much I need deep connection, to risk reaching out for it and, thus, to be willing to show my vulnerability. And 2021 has proved rich in great love and deep connection. I am not the same woman I was at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.’
As I look back at 2022, the turning point for me this year was late April when I was catapulted into the next stage of my quest for deeper connection and intimacy. In Receiving: an act of love published on 15th May 2022, I wrote:
‘My focus on giving was out of balance and masking a blind spot in me, namely that I didn’t know how to receive. And so, I had to go down THAT rabbit hole!
Blind spots are areas we are not conscious of and that we can spend a lifetime evading until one day the curve ball hits us. This curve ball hit me last month during a video session with my brilliant Coach, Mary. She unexpectedly gave me a very generous gift and I was knocked sideways. I’ve always known I struggle to receive but it was shocking to see on camera how visceral my reaction was: my dominant response was pure panic. How can I spend so much time and energy creating the right mindset and conditions for the future I want, if I panic and potentially reject it when it comes in?
Am I getting in my own way? What if the Chi/life force energy is all around me and I’m stopping it coming to me? Or worse, it’s already there and I’m blocking myself from feeling or seeing it? But if I’m the block, then that is something I can influence and change. And that’s where I am now in my learning. I am consciously exploring my reactions to the gifts life brings me; I am noting and gradually understanding my resistance, my disbelief and sometimes my fear, and I am experimenting with what helps me open up to receive.’
My overall wish for 2022 was to have ‘great love, sparkly light and huge fun’. As this year draws to its close, what I am most thankful for is that I am finally open to receiving…fully receiving, not limiting, judging, or measuring…all the great love, sparkly light and huge fun that is already in my life and all that is to come! Finally, this is my annual ritual in preparation for Thanksgiving week:
I create a quiet space and then I write a litany in my journal:
I am thankful for…
I am thankful for…
I am thankful for…
I start with baby steps: small and obvious things, but as I get into the rhythm. my list deepens, connecting me to my core authentic truth. And each time an extraordinary thing happens. As I begin to let go of all that is wrong in my life, everything I feel anxious or hurt about, and instead focus on all that is good in my life, I experience an energetic shift. It starts viscerally: my instinctual body knows first. My heart opens and I feel a warmth and peace flowing through me. This is what our inner voice, our core authentic truth is: it is an instinctual ‘knowing’. Our instinctual body knows our truth well before our cognitive brain catches on!
So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving and wherever you are in the world, how about taking a moment to pause and allow yourself to open up and receive all that is good, healthy, and joyous in your life?
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Hannah Elizabeth Greenwood