What brings fulfillment is gratefulness, the simple response of our heart to this life in all its fullness. — David Steindl-Rast
Practicing gratitude came upon me as a form of grace. It was not something that made a whole lot of sense to me during the darkest times of illness. No, gratitude did not come easy from that darkest of dark nights and yet the little there was I clung to for dear life (quite literally). For me the bearers of this gift were my cats who practiced wild love on me. While there was nothing else I could find any consistent source of comfort from, I could find it from my cats. For that, I was profoundly grateful and because I had that gift my practice of gratitude began. In my cats I was able to see the inherent beauty of life.
I would suggest everyone look to find anything — anything at all — to be grateful for in the difficult times. I had a lot of other things I could be grateful for at the time that my cats were that focal point and had I not had my sweet kitties I should hope someone might have suggested that I look to the other things that kept my life better than it would have otherwise been. I had a roof over my head, food on my plate, a spouse who met my all my survival needs when I couldn’t sit upright in bed or otherwise take care of myself or engage with people. I may have been in a wretched state, but I was being supported in numerous ways. My cats served as a way for me to stay connected to the way life is always beautiful even when I couldn’t otherwise see it.
Now, I realized today when I thought about doing a post for Thanksgiving that I have a highly developed practice of gratitude I’ve never given a whole lot of conscious thought to. Yes, it’s come upon me as a grace, but I’ve been receptive and that is what matters. If one were to consciously choose to consider gratitude daily one can most certainly cultivate this.
I want to suggest and even underscore that practicing gratefulness does not entail denying the difficulty in our lives. I think it’s equally important to honor and embrace our pain and anger and hurt. If we are feeling those things we need to approve of and love the parts of us that feel all those things. That does not negate also being grateful for that which we can be grateful for. So many times when things like gratefulness or forgiveness or other virtues are considered the message is that we should not feel all the bad stuff. I say that’s crap. Feel it all…the bad and the good. Feel grateful and angry or defeated. It’s all good and necessary. Feelings are meant to be felt.
So today I’m grateful for the gift of gratefulness because it’s helped me transmute the despair and pain and anger I’ve also felt and sometimes still feel. We need the whole package it seems.
Today I still have limitations that many people would find unacceptable. I still can’t make commitments for example because my energy needs to be carefully allocated day by day. It gets frustrating sometimes but bigger than that is my sense of gratefulness to be alive in the amazing universe that holds us in her hands. I’m awestruck everyday. And now even when I am going through difficulties I have this sense of being held by life. This amazing place we all find ourselves grappling with the puzzle of it all.
In any case yes IT DID GET BETTER…much much better.
So now, too, I’d like to say I’m grateful for all of you who come here and read my words and enjoy the information I share because without you my life would not be the same. This blog has nourished me deeply and it could not have been without all of you who share this journey with me and inspire me to keep going everyday.
A little collection of quotations and videos to consider:
Here is a video that he narrates. Beautiful!! I get tears in my eyes every time I view it.–
And this is a bit more personal:
These words are from another post I did on gratefulness and they’re quoting Paul Woodward from War in Context:
As Brother David Steindl-Rast says, whether one is religious or secular, it’s hard to argue against gratefulness. How much gratefulness we feel has little to do with whether life seems abundant or filled with hardship. On the contrary, it hinges on the degree to which we are prey to the delusion that we are self-made, or instead have discovered that life is a process in which we endlessly stumble into the unknown. Let’s never forget what a wondrous planet we live on — a place where staggering beauty can suddenly sweep up from the horizon.
Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness by Brother David Steindl-Rast
Gratitude is the sweetest of all the practices for daily life and the most easily cultivated, requiring the least sacrifice for what is gained in return. It is a very powerful form of mindfulness practice, particularly for those who have depressive or self-defeating feelings, and those with a reactive personality who habitually notice everything that’s wrong in a situation…
…Practicing mindfulness of gratitude consistently leads to a direct experience of being connected to life and the realization that there is a larger context in which your personal story is unfolding. Cultivating thankfulness for being part of life blossoms into a feeling of being blessed, not in the sense of winning the lottery, but in a more refined appreciation for the interdependent nature of life. It also elicits feelings of generosity, which create further joy. Gratitude can soften a heart that has become too guarded, and it builds the capacity for forgiveness, which creates the clarity of mind that is ideal for spiritual development. – Phillip Moffitt, excerpted from the article Selfless Gratitude
So yes let us make everyday a day for giving thanks and let us make everyday Earth day too. Let us work to save our planet and it’s inhabitants, for we are graced with this wondrous thing called life.
We have received an inestimable gift. To be alive in this beautiful, self-organizing universe—to participate in the dance of life with senses to perceive it, lungs that breathe it, organs that draw nourishment from it—is a wonder beyond words. It is an extraordinary privilege to be accorded a human life, with self-reflexive consciousness that brings awareness of our own actions and the ability to make choices. It lets us choose to take part in the healing of our world….
…That our world is in crisis—to the point where survival of conscious life on Earth is in question—in no way diminishes the value of the gift of life; on the contrary. To us is granted the privilege of being on hand: to take part, if we choose, in the Great Turning to a just and sustainable society. We can let life work through us, enlisting all our strength, wisdom, and courage, so that life itself can continue.
There is so much to be done, and the time is so short. We can proceed, of course, out of grim and angry desperation. But the tasks proceed more easily and productively with a measure of thankfulness for life; it links us to our deeper powers and lets us rest in them. Many of us are braced, psychically and physically, against the signals of distress that continually barrage us in the news, on our streets, in our environment. As if to reduce their impact on us, we contract like a turtle into its shell. But we can choose to turn to the breath, the body, the senses—for they help us to relax and open to wider currents of knowing and feeling.—Joanna Macy, from her Shambhala Sun article, Gratitude: Where Healing the Earth Begins.