In a TED Talk from 2013, Brother David Steindl-Rast talks about how being grateful leads to happiness, as opposed to happiness leading to gratefulness. (More about him at his Wikipedia page.) This is something I would like to work on myself, being grateful in every moment with the opportunity it contains, despite the nagging chronic pain of a chemical burn.
He talks about the two-step of how gratefulness works: that it is a gift that is freely given (not bought, earned, or traded), and that it is valuable to us. This can be found with simply existing. Every moment is freely given to us; We did not do anything to bring it about, our parents did that work. Every moment is valuable to us for if we did not have it, we would not be able to experience anything.
The gift within a gift is that every moment is an opportunity – to learn, to suffer, to stand up for what you believe. Not that we have to be grateful for everything, such as oppression or grieving, rather being grateful in every moment. That gratitude requires a pause of acknowledgement embodied in his process: stop, look, go. Though he doesn’t call it by name, this is exactly what I interpret mindfulness to be, an awareness and focus on the present.
There are two things Brother David says which ring very true for me. “Once in awhile something difficult is given to us. And when this difficult thing is given to us, it is a challenge to rise to that opportunity. And we can rise to it by learning something which is sometimes very painful.” This gives me strength to know certain things I have learned only in the last few years have been the most useful lessons of my life, while being the most difficult truths to swallow.
“If you’re grateful, you’re not fearful. If you’re not fearful, you’re not violent.” I agree fear leads to violence, I need some more time to wrap my head around gratefulness leading to fearlessness. I was under the impression that education gives us access to see an issue from multiple viewpoints, from which one can empathize a view other than our own, and leads to curiosity rather than fear.
I do agree gratefulness leads to happiness. Being grateful is now part of my daily routine, along with a few other habits which give a “happiness advantage” which collectively take about half an hour. As winter sets in, I usually get being trapped in my own head by whatever catastrophic stress I believe is going to end my world, though not this year. For this, I am grateful.