At the Crossroads: Anyone Bring a Flashlight?

A day in the life of one witch’s attempts at community organizing, group leadership, public Paganism, and joyous shenanigans. Balancing inner work with external obligations, a professional career with public Paganism, and a full social calendar with gratuitous amounts of sleep.

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The Gratitude Turkey

Way back when I was a teenager, we’d often have Thanksgiving dinner with my Aunt Darla and her family.  Poor Aunt Darla.  She tried very hard to make us all come together like a “normal” family, which often ended up as a weak and awkward parody of whatever it was that “normal” families did.  I remember that during dinner she’d make us, one by one, share with the group what we were most thankful for.  I hated doing this because I really just wanted to shovel potatoes into my mouth and eventually get to the pie.  Even as a kid I found this “tradition” to be a bit forced and artificial.  Also I thought I was totally too-cool-for-school to be genuine and vulnerable, and in front of my family, too!  Ew!  (Plus I just knew my cousins would tease me later, regardless of what I said.)

Well, nearly two decades later and my aunt would be pleased to know that at least one of her weird tradition stuck with me.  The awkward vulnerability of thankfulness lives on!  In the spirit of Aunt Darla I spent the past two weeks forcing (okay, politely and therapeutically suggesting) that the kids I work with create lists of the things they thankful for this year.  Even the kids who are usually “too cool for school” (relatable) seemed to enjoy this project, and it was a lot of fun to learn about what these children value and why.  Being thankful for Mom and Dad came as no surprise to me.  Siblings and school were items I never would have thought to include on my own list but often showed up for my clients.  Food and Star Wars, however, are both something my clients and I are consistently thankful for.

For a long time I resisted the concept of gratitude lists.  They seemed too… easy?  Hokey?  Like something that Oprah would suggest at her next book club meeting?  But I’ve come to really be grateful for gratitude.  (Har har!)  (But seriously, I am!)  I’m lazy and it’s an easy project to do with clients.  But more than that, gratitude just works.  If you’d like to learn more, just Google “the science of gratitude” or some variation of those search terms.  Gratitude isn’t just some new age fluffy “feel good” exercise, but it is evidence-based and proven to be beneficial.  I practice cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with my clients (I’m a child and family therapist.)  CBT basically focuses on the connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.  Basically, what we think influences how we feel, and how we feel has an impact on how we act.  These concepts are pretty simple, but also pretty magical, if you think about it.  Like attracts like, vibrations can impact energy, and as magical folks we know from experience that when we change our thoughts we can change the world. 

When we engage in practices of gratitude we are permeating our mind with pleasant and enjoyable thoughts and memories.  When this happens our brains start to release happy chemicals.  Our brains are like “oh, this thing has made us happy in the past.  Maybe it will make us happy now!”  And when our brains release those happy chemicals we become happy.  (Or at least maybe slightly less sad or anxious?)  The act of expressing gratitude is just a simple chemical process, a cause-and-effect.  It’s magic!

Of course happiness isn’t as simple as “just think better thoughts.”  Our lives are way more complex than that.  But gratitude is a very easy, daily practice that can change the way we think.  And when we change the way we think we can change the way we feel.  And when we change the way we feel we are empowered to act with more authority and confidence in our lives.  And when we act with more authority and confidence in our lives it not only empowers us as individuals but also empowers others to do the same.  If we consistently engage in gratitude we can create a magical aura - a vibration of abundance, pleasure, and joy.  When we live in such a way that our flame is shining brightly, we are able to ignite others, and by doing so we can create a mighty blaze of positive energy, gratitude, and love.  (I don’t know about you but I sure know I could use more of these things in my own life.)

Gratitude doesn’t even need to be hard or time consuming.  I hate reading self-help books that give me suggestions like “do ten mudras and then meditate for half an hour three times a day and then take a walk in a virgin wood and drink three pints of pickle juice before breakfast and after dinner and you will feel better in no time!”  Um… no… 

Gratitude can be simple – the research I’ve read has recommended keeping a journal where each day you record three to five things you are thankful for.  I write in my gratitude journal either right when I wake up, as part of my dream journal, or right before I go to bed, as part of my tarot journal.  Sometimes I’m so worn out emotionally and physically that all I write down is “I am thankful for food, lipstick, and Star Wars.”  Other times I’m feeling more optimistic and write a whole page or more of what I’m grateful for that day, including how and why.  Neither of these is more right or wrong than the other – the effectiveness is just in the fact that I am practicing gratitude.

When it comes to gratitude – just do it.  And don’t overthink mindful thinking!  Don’t try to think of the most insightful or deep or altruistic things you’re thankful for.  If you’re thankful for Netflix (I know I sure am) then be thankful for Netflix.  There is literally no right or wrong way to feel gratefulness and to practice gratitude.  Finally, be consistent.  One a week is a good place to start, establishing a rhythm of making your list during a certain day of the week or a specific time of day.  Daily gratitude is better, but maybe you’re too busy doing ten mudras and then meditating for half an hour three times a day and then taking a walk in a virgin wood and drinking four pints of pickle juice before breakfast and after dinner.  If that’s the case, just find a pattern of consistent gratefulness that works for you.  If you get stressed out about practicing gratitude then you’ll associate the practice with stress and anxiety and your brain will start to release stress and anxiety chemicals rather than happy-feel-good-chemicals.  Again, don’t overthink the process of gratitude!  That will defeat the whole purpose of it all!

You might not notice changes right away (that’s not how these things work).  But you will reach a point when you realize that your perspective has shifted, just so.  As Pagans and witches, we know that the power of attraction works – even if we’re only writing “food, lipstick, Star Wars” in a journal every night for a month (and not just begrudgingly trying to come up with something meaningful once a year in front of your family over dinner.) 

Gratitude is gratitude is gratitude, and the spirit of thankfulness will raise your vibrations to a higher level.  By doing so you will raise the vibrations of those around you.  And then, much to the joy of my Aunt Darla, we won’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to show the world how we really feel and what we truly value – it will be obvious by how we live. 

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Trivia is a social worker, freelance writer, minister, and priestess. She loves to have a good adventure. Follow her exploits on Twitter ( and on Tumblr (!
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