How to Be Grateful without Spiritual Bypassing

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One of the things we are bringing more awareness to at Sistership Circle is the social conditioning and trauma patterns in the body, the cultural appropriation and colonization of land, and the distinctions of circle into all areas of our lives.

In two days from now, the United States (and Americans all over the world) will celebrate Thanksgiving.

It’s a time to celebrate family and friends, express gratitude, and eat too much food. Lots of turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie and green beans.

This holiday has been built on a lie that we have been taught since preschool.

I remember the story and how we reenacted it in class …

The Indians saved the Pilgrims from the bitter cold winter, teaching them how to farm.The Pilgrims and Indians had a big feast to celebrate and express gratitude for the abundance of harvest. They lived happily ever after together. The End.

More and more people are waking up to the shadow of Thanksgiving, and creating new traditions.

What I’d like to bring to awareness to today is how the idea of “gratitude” can be used as a spiritual bypass. Which makes sense since the very premise of it in the American culture is not rooted in authenticity. There has been a trauma response buried in the American psyche, one that we’d rather avoid then go into.

I notice this everywhere: a desire to feel good, skipping right over anything that feels yucky.

And so, as families are coming together this week, the tendency is to ignore any underlying feelings of resentment, anger, or upset and avoid conflict at all costs.

Even though your brother has been a jerk all year, just be grateful and keep the peace during thanksgiving.

Even though you are slaving away cooking for everyone, just be grateful and put on a happy face.

At least you have family.

At least you have a roof over your head and a meal to share.

Just be grateful for what you have.

Sound familiar?

People use this “gratitude” as a shaming weapon, taking away its true essence and power.

In our Mastery of Circle Program, we’ve been talking about the spiritual bypassing that happens when we go straight into gratitude and avoid feeling our underlying feelings. Instead, I am teaching the women in this program how to go on a journey into the darkness, doing the necessarily clearing work to then authentically step into gratitude with expanded joy and unbridled self-expression.

So how do we do that?

How do you make Thanksgiving a more authentic experience and create new conscious rituals for your family?

1 – Release Ritual: Don’t shoot the messenger, get the message

Do the inner work so that you don’t bypass straight to gratitude on a pile of dung.

Make a list of all the resentments and upsets that you have with anyone you are sharing Thanksgiving with. What is the thing you are saying about them? What is the underlying emotion? Sit with the feeling in your body and locate it.

The truth is, whoever is triggering you is a messenger. The message is in the emotion. When you can feel the feeling, and trace it back to the original source, you can take the blame off the person and release the “hook.”

Then write down the limited beliefs about yourself and this person and burn it. Release the charge you have, then plan to have a courageous conversation to clear the air and restore harmony.

2 – Courageous Conversations: Clear up any withholds with family members before the holiday

Once you have done your own inner work and have less of a trigger, you can now have an adult conversation and express any needs and desires.

What I recommend first is getting into the other person’s shoes. Where do you think (s)he feels hurt? What can you own as your part? How can you take responsibility for the conflict?

Then ask to schedule a call. Don’t do this via email or text. Get on the phone and start by creating an empowering context. Let him/her know that you are calling because you want to create a joyful holiday experience and you have something that is bothering you. Ask permission to talk about it. This is key to having them be open to receiving whatever you are going to share.

Then share vulnerability using “I” language where you take responsibility for your own feelings.

For example: “I feel hurt that I called you and haven’t heard back. It’s been 6 months since we’ve talked and I’m afraid that you are mad at me. I want to clear the air before Thanksgiving.”

Then hold space for the other person to share without trying to defend yourself. Receive the communication.

Ask what (s)he needs to feel good in the relationship as well as share any requests you have.

Now I get that there may be old wounds. You may feel like your brother or sister may NEVER change. They may have done something really horrible. This would obviously require deeper work and more support. So if you don’t feel ready for this part (remember, it is a courageous conversation), that’s ok. Focus on #1.

We also go deeper into withholds in the How to Lead Circle program.

3 – Honor and acknowledge the indigenous owners of the land

During Thanksgiving Day, bring awareness to the sacrifice of the indigenous peoples with a prayer like this:

“We ask the permissions of the traditional indigenous owners of this land upon which we sit.
We pay our respects to the Elders past, present and future, offering gratitude and humility that we may sit upon this sacred land.”

If this feels awkward, give context for why you are doing this prayer.

Invite your family into a discussion if appropriate.

4 – Acknowledgement Train: Create a family circle

Ask your family to circle up before or after dinner if you don’t already. Instead of doing the typical “I’m grateful for …” statement, have each person in the circle acknowledge the person to their right and go around the circle so everyone is acknowledged. We call this the Acknowledgment Train in How to Lead Circle. This will bring more connection as you are sharing appreciating for one another.

5 – Decrease your Thanksgiving footprint

Instead of having the gluttonous meal loaded with carbs and turkey that makes you feel like you gained 20 lbs, try healthier alternatives and skip the meat all together. Our meat consumption in the US has a major environmental impact.

Instead of buying plastic supplies, incorporate nature and make altars with the elements. Check this out as an example.

If you are not celebrating Thanksgiving because you live in another country, perhaps there is a holiday where you can also incorporate some of these ideas.

We’d love to hear from you:

Get vulnerable: is there someone you are afraid of rocking the boat with this Thanksgiving? How can we support you?

Resource share: do you have any other suggestions for conscious rituals and decreasing your footprint?

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