A Halloween Hurricane Lesson in Gratitude

This year for many of us the transition from Halloween to Thanksgiving has been turned a little upside-down. Although I typically think of Halloween as a holiday of greed, excess and frivolity, for my family Hurricane Sandy has transformed  it into an early reminder of just how much we have to be grateful for.

And as I sit here looking around the hotel lobby where my family has taken refuge from the after-effects of the storm, the thing I notice most of all is how happy everyone seems to be. Tired yes, but also happy. In his book, Stillness Speaks, Eckhart Tolle teaches, “Your unhappiness ultimately arises not from the circumstances of your life but from the conditioning of your mind.” And here, in the midst of all the post-hurricane drama, I can see  the truth of this in action. Most people here have had to temporarily abandon homes and possessions. There are worried families still waiting to connect with loved ones. (My babysitter’s family is still waiting to get word on her grandfather who lives on Long Island without a cell phone.) And large families, used to an abundance of space, are finding themselves indefinitely crammed into small rooms intended for two.

The circumstances of our lives have been upended for the foreseeable future. There is plenty here to be sad or stressed- out about, yet most of the adults are friendly and smiling, and most of the kids are running around making new friends and having fun. I think that’s because most of us are taught to practice gratitude in times of distress. I know that I was taught to think first of the health and safety of family and friends in a crisis, and I am certainly trying to teach my kids that as long as we are together and safe, the rest is just gravy.

But looking around at the tired, smiling faces in the hotel lobby, I realize that Eckhart Tolle is inviting us to do more. The attitude of gratitude we so easily use as the gateway to happiness in a crisis is just as accessible in every day life, yet it’s amazing how easy it is to let the little things to get us down. Happy in a crisis, but unhappy when the restaurant loses our reservation or we get a bad haircut?  It sounds crazy, but I know that it’s true for me – at least some of the time. And if gratitude for my family’s health and safety, and all the other blessings of our life together, can counteract the major challenges of recovering from Hurricane Sandy, I would think that it should be strong enough to counteract the minor inconveniences of every day life. After all, aren’t I always thankful that my family is healthy and safe?

Hurricane Sandy may have played all of us a nasty Halloween trick, but the treat I will hold close is the reminder of how much I have to be grateful for and how cultivating an attitude of gratitude can ensure that happiness is always just a thought away.

I hope that your family is safe and that you will come back to this site each week this month for simple gratitude practices you can use with your family to cultivate happiness during this month of Thanksgiving and always.



1 comment to A Halloween Hurricane Lesson in Gratitude

  • Sherry-Lynne

    Thank you for the reminder so eloquently expressed. My heart goes out to you and your family. I include you in my meditation tonight.
    Thinking of you,

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