EcoDharma Doula


and the Words That Come Before All Else

I acknowledge the harvest season and its celebration of your November offering. I was reminded a few weeks ago that the Canadian Thanksgiving was celebrated, and American Thanksgiving will be celebrated this month. Disclaimer: This offering suggests the apparent switch to celebrating appreciative Thanksgiving every day and perhaps inverting our tradition to make thanks-taking a one-day-a-year event.

When Emily and I consider Thanksgiving, the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address comes to mind immediately. This well-known address represents the Words that Come Before All Else. The words require us to stop and appreciate the world we are a part of. The terms ask us to join our minds as one. For an appreciative, heart-warming opening, please spend 13-1/2 minutes listening to the address. I’ll wait while you do so. Okay, now our minds are one?The address visits the People, Earth Mother, Waters, Fish, Plants, Food Plants, Medicine Herbs, Animals, Trees, Birds, Four Winds, Thunderers, Sun, Moon, Stars, Enlightened Teachers, and the Creator. And if we left anything out, we have the time to address the absences at the end. There is great wisdom in starting anything with an appreciation for what we have to put our meetings into a proper shared space. We already have so much.

But about the title: this brings us to the other half of the title: いただきます or “Itadakimasu” is said in Japan just before eating. You are presented with a meal, and a moment is taken to appreciate the various supply chains required to put the food on the table. The word “Itadakimasu” is often translated as “I humbly receive” or “I gratefully receive.” It reflects the Japanese cultural value of gratitude and respect for the food, the people who prepared it, and the natural elements involved in its production and to set a positive tone before a meal. These supply chains include farmers and producers, distributors and retailers, cooks and family, and nature: the long list in the Thanksgiving Address are candidates for gratitude before each meal.

Thich Nhat Hahn once held up a napkin and asked what the audience saw: he then pointed out a deep appreciation for the interconnected inter-being we are: He saw earth and sky, clouds carrying water, misty mornings, the understory, the fungal central nervous system beneath the ground, the birds, animals, and insects that count on the forest, loggers harvesting wood, trucks taking the wood to mills, mills reducing the wood to pulp.

These festivals often have unique traditions and cultural significance, but they all share the common theme of giving thanks for the abundance of the harvest and the changing of the seasons. Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year), Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving), Pongal (Tamil Harvest Festival): Erntedankfest (German Harvest Festival), Sukkot (Jewish Feast of Tabernacles), Pahiyas Festival (Philippine Harvest Festival), and Lammas (Celtic Harvest Festival).Part of the appreciation for the bounty we experience is to set aside some of that for future generations. The Greeks found a wild fennel plant had contraceptive properties, and they overharvested it to extinction. Their population spiked, and their supply and demand lines destabilized: they agreed to take better care of coming generations. They looked ahead seven generations. A looking ahead principle brings home the ‘giving’ aspect of reciprocal Giving Thanks: we take what we need and always consider the needs of future generations. I appreciate our ‘never give up’ collective. It is a comfort knowing you are all in this world plugging away.I hope we are now of one mind that rejoices in our interbeing and appreciably connects to our myriad supply lines and the lines that we supply to future generations. Isn’t this the way it always has been done?

2024-06-23 08:05:56