An unmistakable glow of kindness and gratitude emanate from Brother David Steindl Rast. An Austrian born Benedictine Monk and scholar -- at the age 88 -- Brother David travels the world sharing a simple, yet powerful message: gratefulness is the key to true happiness.
His accomplishments are many -- over 11 published books, a worldwide network entitled, Grateful Living and his popular video, "A Good Day," all of which beautifully reminds us of a vital truth, we often forget: "Each day is a gift, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness."
When I speak with Brother David, just after his talk at the Wisdom 2.0 conference, his childlike sense of wonder and joy fill the room, as he offers age-old wisdom with simplicity and grace.
In your talk today, you mentioned that people ask you, "How can I be grateful for a tragedy that happened in my life?" You made an interesting distinction that we may not be able to be grateful for a particular incident, but we can be grateful for the moment.
Every moment offers us an opportunity to be grateful. The question people always ask me is, "Can I really be grateful for everything?" I say no, absolutely not, because you can think of many things that you cannot be grateful for: untimely death, breakup with friends and relatives, unfaithfulness. When you look at the world and see: violence, war, oppression, exploitation and greed -- you cannot be grateful for those things. While you cannot be grateful for everything, you can be grateful in every moment. Gratefulness is always gratefulness for the opportunity. There are situations, in which we are confronted with things that we cannot be grateful for, and yet, there is always the opportunity either to learn something new or to grow from the experience.
SS: Any suggestions for practices to cultivate the attitude of gratitude?
Every evening before I go to bed I think about one or two things that I am grateful for. If you do that, they have found through scientific experiments that people get healthier -- your life improves by being grateful.
Your video, "A Good Day," illustrates the integral connection between gratefulness and happiness.
Gratefulness makes us happy. It is the key to happiness. We often have the wrong idea, we think that happy people are grateful for being so happy, but it is not the case. We all know people who have everything that they would need to be happy and yet, they are not happy, because they are not grateful. They either want something else or they want more of the same. We all know people who have much less than we have, and often more problems and troubles, and yet they radiate joy, because they live gratefully.
SS: Are there any practices that you use to infuse presence into your daily life?
I practice Stop, Look, Go. That is the main thing. It links up with Eckhart Tolle's teaching of being in the present moment, because Stop means interrupt that automatic flow of your thoughts and be here now -- be present. Once you are present, you can Look at what life is offering you in the moment? A helpful question to ask is: What is life inviting me to do? Go means engage with what is.
SS: When we engage with what is, we are accepting the opportunity life is offering us.
Most of the time it is the opportunity to enjoy. People do not quite believe that, but when they actually Stop, Look, and ask what is the opportunity now? Most of the time it is the opportunity to enjoy all sorts of things that they never previously enjoyed. Enjoy breathing, enjoy that they can walk, enjoy that they have eyes. We do not notice these things until we lose them. When we have problems with walking, we discover what a gift it is to walk. We might as well start being grateful now, while we can walk. In other words, don't wait until you are deprived -- enjoy the many gifts now. And, the more grateful you are the more gifts you discover.
SS: It takes presence to Stop, Look and Go. When we are wrapped up in our thoughts of our perceived problems, accessing the awareness to STOP, can be a challenge. Any suggestions?
We need to build into our daily life little stop signs. One is the beginning of any activity. All the beginnings in the day are wonderful opportunities to Stop, because there is already a little break in the automatism. Snap out of mechanical minds. The end of an activity is also good. When you turn off your computer that is a break in the automatism. It inserts a break and that is enough time to remind you to take a deep breath and say, "Wow, Thank you for the day."
For more from Eckhart Tolle please click here.