by Achim Nowak

My 3 Favorite Thanksgiving Questions

November 20, 2023

How far can we push? What can I learn? Not how to make a movie – just about life. Know what I mean?

That’s Martin Scorsese, considered one of the greatest living filmmakers around, as quoted by John Jurgensen in his current essay about Scorsese in the November 2023 issue of The Wall Street Journal Magazine (Jurgensen, WSJ, “Flip the Script.”).

Yes, Martin, know what you mean.

Scorsese is 81 years old. His recent movie, Flowers of the Killer Moon, is a revelation of more brilliance from an astounding filmmaker. “After 60 years as a filmmaker, Martin Scorsese is still growing,” Jurgensen affirms in his piece.


It’s Thanksgiving week in the United States. I just returned from a 9-day trip to Germany and the Netherlands where I spent time with my mom who is 2 months shy of being 99 years old. This trip came toward the end of a year when I had a successful double heart-valve-replacement surgery.

How far can we push. What can I Iearn?

The Scorsese questions feel especially personal to me in 2023. They prompt me to think of what I am grateful for this year, at a time when our world in turmoil seems in even more turmoil.

Thirst drove me down to the water where I drank the moon’s reflection.”


I love the food part of my American Thanksgiving. Love lounging in bed all morning as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade rolls by on my tv screen.

And I love a bit of quiet reflection time about things I am grateful for.

Chances are, you will be asked to express your gratitude publicly as you gather with family or friends around the Thanksgiving table. Cool. Doing so is a beautiful ritual.

I invite you to, however, find some quiet reflection time of your own. And in lieu of asking “so what I am grateful for?,” consider the following 3 questions as your guides.

These questions are beautifully in sync with Martin Scorsese’s life questions. They will lead you to answers that may be unexpected. They also happen to be perfect questions in times of turmoil or distress.

I think of them as Gratitude 2.0 questions.

REFLECTION #1: What has “moved” me this year?

The word moved is not meant to signify touchy-feely, fluffy, superficial. On the contrary, think of things, situations, people, causes, moments, movements that have stirred you deeply this year. Moved your heart and soul. Ignited your humanity. Know what these things were and are. They are the things that connect you with who you are at your finest. They activate your deepest beliefs and values. They link to your spiritual core, even if it is a core that perhaps operates in hiding behind your rational mind.

Knowing what touches us is a rich gateway to a more authentic expression of ourselves. It is a guidepost to a more impactful way of being and engaging in the world. Self-reflection opens that door. Walk in.

REFLECTION #2: What has surprised me?

The notion of gratitude can feel like we’ll look at only “the good stuff.” Surprise is a value-neutral term. Some surprises instantly feel like “good news.” Others may feel like “bad news.” At times, bad news may, with perspective, feel like “that’s the best thing that ever happened to me.” The surprises may come in the form of unexpected gifts and blessings, amidst a circumstance that we may at first not be grateful for.

I am still surprised that my mom is almost 99 years old. I was very surprised when the need for a heart-valve-replacement surgery presented itself very quickly this year. There are surprises within these surprises. I am most grateful, perhaps, for the learning that has occurred, and continues to occur, within a surprise. I have never been closer to my mom than I am now. Go figure. The surprises invariably deepen my understanding of myself, of another person, the world around me. What a beautiful thing that is.

REFLECTION #3: What am I discovering about life?

Surprises and discovery, at their finest, go hand-in-hand. 2 questions I ask pretty much every one of my podcast guests: What would you like to do more of in life? What less? The answers to these questions are often not easy. They sometimes require that we let go of things and activities that we excel at but have, perhaps, outgrown. That is not always an easy discovery. But how grateful I am when that discovery is made. How freeing it can be to make room for new discoveries and fresh adventures. Yes, grateful.

Gratitude for our successes is a precious thing. So is gratitude for the abundance and love we may know. Celebrate, as well, the discoveries big and small of this year. They are the guideposts to all your potential that has yet to unfold.

This Thanksgiving, carve out some reflection time. Trust that your reflection time will help you to continuously reconnect with your innermost desires and spirit. Know that self-reflection is, indeed, part of every spiritual practice on our planet. Be one of those people that is still growing. Find your inner thirst and quench it.

Drink the moon’s reflection over the holidays. Do so with gratitude and joy.

And if you haven’t seen Killers of the Flower Moon yet, treat yourself and go.

Warm wishes for a peaceful Thanksgiving.

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