Gratitude and grace. Two words with a common root. Both concepts signify the free exchange of kindness or thanks or blessing and in this month of November, the month of Thanksgiving, we turn our spirit to the joy we feel in the presence of grace with an intention of gratefulness or gratitude. When I think of our Californian lifestyle replete with ambition, deal making, and entrepreneurship, I sense that the moments for gratitude are few and awkwardly intersperse between goal directed activities. But we should make room for grace, for those unbidden times when beauty, love, or compassion roars into our anxious souls.
Hindu philosophy talks about the contrast between a “monkey god” and a “cat god”. A cat god, like a mother cat, carries her kittens by the scruff of their necks, while a monkey god requires her offspring to cling to her back as she cavorts among the trees. To me, the Divine is both like a monkey and a cat; like kittens, we can experience grace from universe, from the world, from our communities and friends as though we were lifted up without effort or demand from us. On the other hand, like monkeys, our actively giving thanks or offering gratitude is a reaching out to the Divine or our common humanity, so that we might acknowledge our relationship to others beyond ourselves and so that we would covenant to reciprocate that unsought for grace that we have blessed with.
So gratitude and grace, monkey and cat, Thanksgiving and receiving gifts, all come together during this month of November, lying right between harvest and winter.