two deer walking through forest of yellow leaves

So here I am, getting ready to celebrate the holidays in Pennsylvania, of all places. After a rush of magic convinced me to buy a ranch in California, I never thought I would move again. Why did I?

First, because as we all know, God finds our plans hilarious. Second, because the river of mystery that moves us through life doesn’t stop moving. I’ll tell you the whole story sometime, but for now, I want to talk about how to stay in the center of that river. It has everything to do with Thanksgiving, with gratitude, and with abundance.

When Jesus said “I come to give you life more abundant,” I don’t think he just meant padding our bank accounts. I think he meant learning how to fill every moment of our lives with more joy, fascination, passion, and presence. Research shows that mere stuff can’t give us that kind of abundance. It comes from pushing our limits, from helping others, and especially from expressing gratitude.

Gratitude is the emotional sweet spot from which we can create our best lives. It takes us out of feeling like victims and reminds us how we’ve been supported, even by the smallest things, in good times and bad.

In one study, people who wrote letters of gratitude to someone in their lives, and then read their letters aloud to the recipients, showed markedly increased levels of happiness for months. Doing good deeds, overcoming obstacles, and learning new skills also boost happiness, but nothing came close to the power of delivering a heartfelt “thank you.”

Try saying the word “red” in your mind repeatedly as you look around a room. Everything red will suddenly pop into your attention. Similarly, when our focus is on gratitude, we suddenly see how much we have to be grateful for. We see the abundance that surrounds and permeates us.

Abundance is in the air we breathe, filled with smells of food, shampoo, falling leaves. It’s in the fact that our incredibly complex, soft, fragile bodies have remained alive for years. It’s in the flash of connection offered by everyone who has ever smiled at us. It’s in our cell phones—my God, our cell phones—tiny machines like robot servants that put infinite resources in our palms.

The longer we stay in gratitude, the more abundance we see in any situation. The more abundance we see, the more gratitude grows. This virtuous circle puts us smack-dab in the middle of the Force, whatever that may be. We begin to notice small miracles, and then large ones. Soon, we may come to feel quite swept away by grace. Try it.

Don’t limit your thanksgiving to Thanksgiving. Look at the abundance that attends you this very moment. Write it down. Read it out loud. Share it.

I’m looking out my window at another ancient forest, this one as lush and deep as the oak savannah is wide and golden. The first time I entered this room, tagging along behind my realtor, I thought how I’d miss seeing deer and wild turkeys wandering past my windows. Then I glanced through a window and saw a flock of wild turkeys. The deer weren’t far behind. They were like animal emissaries, agents of abundance come to assure me that as we release everything and abandon ourselves to the river of mystery, we’ll be given even more than we have lost. (This Thanksgiving, I’ll be sending up a special wave of gratitude for turkeys.)

Right now is my chance (lucky me!) to thank you for reading these words. Thank you for giving me your precious time and attention, for putting your unique, irreplaceable energy into the field of consciousness. Thank you for joining me in this amazing adventure called human life. And thank you for noticing that this life, if we know how to look, is always offering us life’s full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and flowing over.