This morning, I stumbled upon an NPR interview with Brother David Steindl-Rast. I wonder how in all my years, I just found him today. Like many I admire, he has a religious practice but also a spiritual practice. He is a mystic, a philosopher, a psychologist, a scholar and a teacher. He studies, connects and see the value in other religious and spiritual traditions. He practices mindfulness. He had published many books and articles. I read and listen to other teachers in his circle. He has a ted talk! And yet, I just found his teachings today.
Many of his talks focus on gratefulness. Like many, I have been keeping a gratitude journal for years. I have paper journals, notebooks and several apps for my iphone. Sometimes I am dedicated and do daily journaling, sometimes months will go by with nothing. During easy times, gratitude is a brilliant sun warming myself and those around me. During rough times, gratitude has helped me find stars of hopefulness in the wide expanse of challenges.
But what if the stars of hope seem to be light years away? There are times when expressing gratitude at those moments feel false.
I have discovered that those are the moments when I have practiced gratitude in a superficial way. In our most challenging times, a quick look for gratitude may leave us feeling empty because we are looking for a happy moment outside of the pain, disappointment or grief.
But what if we seek to discover gratitude within the challenge? In that case we are looking for something different. We can find authentic gratitude through deep silence. Out of the silence will arise our insight to the opportunities inherent in challenging times.
Mindfulness is one process that will help you clear a contemplative space for deep exploration. In the interview, Steindl-Rast suggested visualizing the problems floating down one by one to the bottom of a lake. Once you gain some distance from the concerns, you clear a space to contemplate. This visualization makes me remember the peace of floating while holding your breath, your eyes and ears in a different world.
Now you wait.
Look for opportunities. Look for surprises. You will be able to touch the pain and still find the gratitude in the opportunities that will arise. This gratitude will feel authentic.
Sometimes the real gratitude will come quickly. Sometimes slowly.
Today we are faced with a devastating pandemic. Some have resources to weather the social isolation well; others do not. Some people have contracted the disease. Some have lost loved ones. Others are experiencing hunger and financial ruin. The pause of our economic engine hurts many. The earth is taking a deep breath.
Everything has been churned up.
The future is uncertain, but we know that we will be changed by the experience. We will have much to mourn from the impact of coronavirus. We can and should reach out to help each other.
We can look for the surprising outcomes and we can be grateful for the opportunities that will surely arise.
Click to find more about Brother David Steindal-Rast.