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A Radical Thanksgiving

Prayer by Grandmother Flordemayo and Essay by Glenn Aparicio Parry

Beloved Mother
thank you for the blessings that you bring to us
with every breath that we take
I feel the vibration of your light
as I look at all of the beauty
that is here with us on the sacred Earth

Beloved Grandmother
bathe us with your yellow rays of light
allow us to inhale the sacred wisdom
at this moment standing before you
as I send my voice to the universe
creator of all of this beauty around us
 bringer of all the Earthly birds that dwell with us
 the cosmic birds that you bring to us in the dream time
and in the day time
when we manifest all of our completion of our sacred life
standing before you
thank you for all of the waters that run on your sacred body
oceans lakes rivers streams

speak to us
through the thunder of the sacred storms
embrace us with the dew of the sacred dawn

Beloved Mother
giver of all life
thank you for all the little animals on the planet
all the trees all the plants all the herbs and medicine
that you have given to all of us
the sacred motion of all the clouds
and all of the heavenly colors that you bathe us with
day after day from the beginning of time


-- Grandmother Flordemayo
A Radical Thanksgiving

The idea of thanksgiving is very old, older than the Native American and Pilgrim tradition, older than the concept of nation-states, older than feudalism, older than anything we can think of, as old as the very first thought.  

How can I say this? The clue is in the word “thinking,” which at its root came from “thanking.” The proto-Indo-European word tong, from which we derive the word “thanking,” means to “think.” And, curiously, it also means “to feel” —because thinking was once inseparable from feeling.
Can you imagine a time when to think was to thank—and to thank was to feel grateful for all of creation? This means that, originally, all our thoughts were prayers.  Think about that when you sit down to your next Thanksgiving dinner.  Imagine being thankful in the most radical way possible. Imagine thanking as easily as you breathe. And why not? To breathe is an incredible gift. We couldn’t receive the gift of breath if it not for the trees that give off the oxygen we need to take in and allow us to give back the carbon dioxide to the plants and trees in a sacred circle of reciprocation. And the trees couldn’t exist without the soil protecting their roots, and the dark, watery womb of Mother Earth we call “soil” couldn’t exist without the rains that come to feed her and all the other plants and animals that depend upon her to live. Everything that exists is interdependent with everything else. Every breath, every thought, should remind us of our radical interconnection – of our radical thanksgiving.  

If it were not for Indigenous peoples, I would probably not appreciate life’s immense beauty and essential interconnectedness.  From the late Grandfather Leon Secatero, a Canoncito band of Navajo ceremonial elder, I learned to give thanks to the ancestors and for everything that has happened to bring me to this moment in time. I make that prayer every morning without fail.  I thank a growing list of wise ancestors that came before me, people that not only meant a lot to me, but still do. As long as I am praying to them, the portal to their wisdom remains open. It is a great teaching to accept all that has happened as a blessing, for it allows me to learn from everything and everyone, and it prevents me from bemoaning my circumstances or getting stuck in my thinking.

From the late Grandfather Tobasonakwut, Anishanaabe elder, I learned to give thanks for being alive from the very moment I wake up in the morning, even before my feet touch the ground. It is Grandfather Tobasonakwut who also taught me the pipe ceremony, a profound way of prayer that works with the spirit of what is respectfully referred to as Grandfather Tobacco. Tobacco is referred to as Grandfather because of its deep web of interconnection, both below the surface, where its horizontal plant stem (rhizome) spreads far and wide; and with the sky above, when it is smoked. The smoke acts as an ally in reaching realms far beyond where human beings ordinarily go, convening with the eagles, hawks, and other allies that take our prayers to the subtle world of the ancestors and other Invisible Beings who can help us. As two-legged beings, we stand between earth and Sky. Because it reminds me of all the interconnected realms, I have found the tobacco ceremony to be the most profound teaching of what it means to be human.

Being raised in Western society, I had to first unlearn much of what I thought I knew before I could re-educate myself to open up to the spirit of nature. I had to train my mind—not to ignore rational thought— but to suspend it. From Blackfoot elder Leroy Little Bear, I learned the idea of keeping my belief system in abeyance so that I could listen with my full being to what was being said in dialogue. Our rational minds are great tools, but only if directed from a greater knowing.  What occurs in a well-run dialogue is more than people talking; it is Spirit talking through the mouths of people. In its most beautiful moments, it is not words being spoken, but prayers.  

I find prayer itself to be a more powerful force than I once imagined. The definition of a prayer is subject to interpretation, but I believe any thought that is thankful, that comes from blessing, is a prayer.  In this, again, I am indebted to my Native brothers and sisters for this teaching, despite the fact that they, of all peoples, would seem to have the most righteous grievances. Even after 500 plus years of colonization and all the historical trauma that it has induced, my greatest teachers of thankfulness are Indigenous people. One of these teachers is Grandmother Flordemayo, who together with the entire Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, pray faithfully every day, from the heart of Nature through their own hearts, to help renew and reset the balance of life. While they are interested in the revival of their own cultures, they pray for all people and all our relations. They pray from a sense of wholeness, just like the ancient rishis did in India.

That is the whole
This is the Whole
From Wholeness emerges Wholeness
Wholeness coming from Wholeness,
Wholeness still remains.

Western people have a tendency to be restless, as Ochwiay Blano (Mountain Lake), the Taos pueblo chief, told Carl Jung, upon his visit to New Mexico in 1924. Despite all the bounty we receive in this rich country, we find something missing. We are taught to “pursue happiness,” with the implication that happiness comes from material gain. But happiness will never be found by its pursuit. Happiness is already abiding in the heart that beats in rhythm with Mother Earth. Happiness comes from appreciation of the incredible blessing of life we already have and share with everything else.

It is the way we think that makes us happy or unhappy. We are unhappy when we think in separation rather than communion. The very word “consciousness,” however, means “knowing with.” To be truly conscious is to be aware of our interconnection and to celebrate it.

It is in this way that I have come to realize that thought itself is a blessing. Our task, then, is to empty ourselves so that we can receive thought as the whole and complete transmission from Spirit it was intended to be. If we do this, we may receive a glimpse of what my Native friends call “original instructions” — or instructions of how to live in harmony with all there is. We may receive a knowing that is beyond any books, any words, any school degree. We can still use our rational minds, but it should no longer be giving the orders. It should instead be engaged in service. It is in service to something beyond what we can ever know—in service to the yearning of Life itself whose expression we humans are only a part of. This way of thinking is a profound joy. It is the oldest but the most original way of thinking. It is thinking as thanking. So, it is with this grateful thought in mind that I wish everyone the most Happy radical Thanksgiving.

Grandmother Flordemayo , a member of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, is a  Mayan priestess and curandera espiritu (Healer by Divine Spirit), ancestral seed preserver, and Temple builder on her sacred land in Estancia, NM.

Glenn Aparicio Parry, PhD, founder and past president of the SEED Institute, is the author of the forthcoming book: Original Thinking: A Radical Revisioning of Thought, Time, Humanity, and Nature.

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This article appears in:
2013 Catalyst - Issue 21

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