“This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”Maya Angelou
“Thank you for this breath.” I’ve been praying that sentence a lot lately. Never has there been another time in my past where I have appreciated the gift of life as I do right now. Nor have I valued my family and friends as today. Nor have I had so much unscheduled time that blurs one day into the next. It’s as if the whole world has been forced to slow down and reflect. Hopefully, we will come through this together as a more humble and grateful human race.
I was so pleased to discover this week that one of my favorite podcasts, On Being, was reissuing a 2016 interview with Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk. When I first heard the interview a few years ago, I was intrigued by his countenance expressed through his voice. He seemed so calm and joyful. Upon closer scrutiny, I learned that he had very difficult early years, but ironically he said that they were the happiest years of his life. He was born and grew up in Austria. All of his teenage years were spent under Nazi rule. He experienced intense bombing of his homeland, never knowing from one day to the next whether his village would be destroyed. All of his older friends were killed in the war. Scarcity of resources was commonplace.
How could he maintain happiness through such tragedy? “The way to be joyful is to remember that all of us are going to die some day.” Whoa!! That runs counter to the common cliches of our culture. We can’t even say that a person has died. “Yea, he kicked the bucket. He departed. He lost the battle. She gave up the ghost.”
Brother David said that he saw and faced death daily during the Nazi reign. The uncertainty of each day loomed over him. He had no expectations of the future. He was thankful just to be alive. This was the beginning of a lifelong practice of gratitude. At present, Brother David teaching’s can be found at gratefulness.org, a daily interactive website with thousands of participants from several countries.
Here are Six Blessings for everyday life from Brother David. (Beautiful photography!)
Practicing gratitude has several health benefits. Writing in a grateful journal for just a few minutes each night may help you sleep better and longer. Gratitude may help to decrease aggression and agitation. Gratitude may enhance long term happiness. It facilitates more positive emotions. Have you heard of neuroplasticity? It is the brain’s ability to form new neural connections throughout life. Gratefulness has been proven to change the brain’s neural pathways. Here is an article that explains how gratitude changes the brain. Amazing and hopeful!!