Thursday, January 4, 2018

Living in Now: 6 Actions of Gratitude

Gratitude seeks to be expressed to those who inspire.

At the end of my book, Dear Teachers, I listed a few people who have electrified my mind over the years. Krista Tippett is one of those people, and I was reminded this week of her influence when I listened to her December 21, 2017 podcast of a 2016 conversation she had with David Steindl-Rast, called Anatomy of Gratitude.

Brother David was born in Austria in 1926, and has lived a life that’s taught him the importance of living with gratitude. It’s a fantastic interview that I encourage you to check out. In addition, I’d like to list a few connections I see between what he talked about and the overall theme of my January book essays, summed up in the illustration: sometimes we need to GO. This theme applies to all of us.

Gratitude demands awareness of what we have.

To experience gratitude, we must be grateful: appreciative of benefits received, according to Merriam-Webster.. I wrote in Hustle When It’s Time, “There are times we should GO.” We plan ahead so much. We lose track of so much. What we have right now is very precious. It takes effort and attention to see and feel it.

Gratitude cultivates joy, which can be a long term state.

As Brother David described it, the awareness of all that we have, not what we lack or want, can allow us the pleasurable sensation of joy. This is different than happiness, comes and goes with each new acquisition or quest. Joy can be a state of being where we can see that Life is tough, but the gratitude we feel sustains us and gives us hope.

In my own writing, I described that joy, in A Time to Unfurl, as being in the right place, which allows one’s beauty to unfurl like the petals on a flower.

Gratitude gives us the strength to squeeze through the anxiety of change in order to grow.

I loved Brother David’s story of how our birth is our first experience of anxiety. His sense of the term “anxiety” is not the typical helpless one we many times think of today. To him, we feel anxiety when we’re on the edge of growing into something bigger. It’s uncomfortable and scary. However, if we GO, we’ll grow and blossom. If we STAY, if we can’t get beyond the fear, we stagnate and die.

I wrote of this in my essay, Embracing the Storm. “There will be storms. After they pass, we can see the light break through the clouds together.” That last word brings me to my next point.

Gratitude leads to connections with others, which will be our strength.

We’ve all had experiences (hopefully!) where someone has told us, “You can do this! It’ll be great!”. That person sees potential and wants to share their joy. We've also all rooted someone on (again, hopefully!) in that manner ourselves. When we are aware of our gifts, we want to share that feeling and those gifts with others.

Brother David mentioned a quote from Raimundo Pannikar which summed this up beautifully: 

“The future will not be a new, big tower of power. Our hope in the future is…well-trodden paths from house to house. That is the image that holds a lot of promise for our future.”

We grow as individuals and as a whole society when we share with each other on a regular basis. It doesn’t happen when we lock ourselves away. It doesn’t happen when we wait or worry constantly, and we absolutely must come together so that we can give and receive the next action of gratitude.

Gratitude is active availing ourselves of the moment's opportunity.

That was one of Brother David’s last thoughts and brings me back to my own on our need to GO. We get opportunities. We make opportunities for others. When we are filled and living with gratitude, we can give and receive more and more, in larger and larger circles.

That’s a key for success for us all.

Need help practicing gratitude? Check out Unstuck's 9 suggestions here!

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