How Gratefulness Can Change Your Life
“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.”
— Brother David Steindl-Rast
I had the good fortune of having a three hour conversation with Brother David Steindl-Rast about 30 years ago as we drove together to a monastery and retreat center along the Big Sur coast in California. He had a depth in his heart, a warmth in his voice and a sparkle in his eyes that I will never forget. He has become known, partly through a YouTube video my friend Gary Malkin co-produced and created the score for, for his profound wisdom on Gratefulness.
This past week has been quite trying for me — some significant professional challenges and tension, the tragic loss of someone I knew, the devastating destruction of a beloved spiritual retreat center nearby, and then another shocking loss of a dear friend, Rafael Bejarano, who lost his life while leading others on a spiritual journey in Egypt. (You may have read the story of Mexican tourists gunned down by Egyptian military forces while they stopped along the road for a picnic. My friend Rafael was leading that journey to a desert oasis.)
So much challenge and loss in my path before I was finally able to find some peace, some understanding and eventually grace.
This morning I awoke and read this quote from Brother David, published by HeartMath. My heart knew the tender sublime beauty of this truth. In spite of the pain I and others have been experiencing, in spite of the sadness and shock, there does not have to be suffering. There can still be gratefulness for the support of friends, the beauty of nature, the sun that rises later and later each morning now, giving me more time to rest and reflect before trumpeting the dawn. The fact that I am alive, breathing, healthy, and full of love in my heart. Without pain in my life so many times and in so many ways that I never would have consciously chosen, without that pain my heart would never have grown to be the resilient, radiant center of my well-being that it is. The beacon for me in the darkness. The light at the end of the tunnel, right in my own chest.
Pain has a way of reordering our priorities, of transforming the trivial, the annoying or irritating into simply “what happened”. Certainly there is much pain in life — sometimes at levels that overwhelm — but there doesn’t have to be suffering. Gratefulness can make the difference. What a profound difference that can be.