Gratefulness as Spiritual Practice

Posted on: October 11, 2018, by :

I’m not the man I used to be! That statement could apply to many dimensions of my life and be viewed as a good or not-so-good thing, depending on which of those dimensions we choose. For the purposes of this article I’m choosing to focus on the positives! Specifically, the shift in my life pattern that has resulted from my transition to part-time work. Where once I was highly task-oriented, driven (perhaps frenetically so) to achieve personal and organisational goals, and wearing my ‘busyness’ as a badge of honour, these days I am more relaxed, less focussed on outcomes and more focussed on relationships, and tying my sense of worth less to frenetic activity and more to personal and community wellbeing.

An article in last week’s Sunday Age (The year we turned to shamans) led me to reflect on this. The article identifies the growing wave of interest in mindfulness, meditation, reiki, crystals, chakras and more amongst younger professionals and others, suggesting that the key question in everyone’s mind/soul is ‘What do you want?’  And it appears that where once the question might have been answered in material terms (more money, more things) or perhaps in relational terms (a life partner, children, friends), it is now more likely to be answered in terms of meaning and fulfilment.  Which begs the question, In Search of What or Whom?

That question provided the framework for the Connect Gathering last Wednesday evening. We watched a TED Talk presentation from Chip Conley (Measuring What Makes Life Worthwhile) in which the concept of ‘Gross National Happiness’ was seen as more significant than ‘Gross National Product’, and a TED Talk from David Steindl-Rast (Gratefulness Makes You Happy) in which the way to happiness was linked to gratefulness, to cultivating an attitude of gratitude toward all of life.  Said Steindl-Rast, we think that people are grateful because they are happy. But look closely and you will find that people are happy because they are grateful. We also considered material from The Happiness Institute identifying What Happy People Do, and we shared in a guided meditation on the theme of Gratitude.

I am finding this to be true in my own life: that having more space in my life creates opportunity for gratefulness as I spend more time riding my motorcycle, more time connecting with nature, more time enjoying the company of those I love, and in my gratefulness I am definitely becoming happier!  Of course this awareness can be cultivated just as easily amidst the busyness of full-time work or the pressure of study or anywhere else – it just took the shift in my circumstances for me to attend to it!

Steindl-Rast invites us to cultivate gratefulness in every moment – the easy and the difficult, the smooth and the rough – as a pathway to deep happiness. I’m enjoying learning more about this wonderful spiritual practice.

David Brooker

PS: I’ve been wanting to read Diana Butler-Bass’ latest book, Grateful: The transformative power of giving thanks, since I heard her speak 18 months ago. Now would seem to be a good time to get hold of that … …

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