“ A grateful heart is a happy heart, I'm glad at what I have, that's an easy way to start!”
Brother David Steindl-Rast is a Benedictine monk who celebrated his 90th birthday last year. He produced an audio program called The Grateful Heart on how we can feel gratitude in every moment because everything – our life, our breath, the sky, eachother – has been given to us. Brother David teaches that the recognition that our entire life is a gift and is the key to happiness and we need not wait to feel happy in order to be grateful. We need to attune to gratitude even when the mind is feeling lousy and disenchanted even when we are not in the mood to raise our spirits & muster up feeling grateful in unwelcome circumstances.
As a practice, Brother David recommends a three-step process for living with a grateful heart: STOP and become present and aware and receptive. LOOK and notice and observe and have a direct experience of the moment. Go and take action and do something with the awareness of gratefulness that has emerged in your experience. It is a clear-cut, straight forward and unadorned philosophy.
The notion of STOP LOOK GO is pure simplicity in principle but if you immerse yourself with the process you can discern more beauty and splendour that surrounds your life and then go into a kinder, gentler and more lovingly disposed state of being. If we were to fast forward to the end of our lives, God may propose us with the ultimate question of our sojourn on Earth: “So how was heaven?” In the gift that is our life we tend to have an insular and skewed vision that consumes us with pain and resolving ongoing problems, unable to see the natural and permeating beauty and allure everywhere. Cultivation of this practice guarantees more intrinsic states of happiness.
We find it almost impossible to let go of the insignificant tiny things that preoccupy our thoughts. We need to embrace a larger perspective of where we are in the universe and recognise that these little annoyances are given more attention than they deserve. That these aren't actually that important in the scheme of things and prevent us from total being in the NOW. Its a reminder to focus more exclusively on those things that uplift and brighten the heart and soul as we endeavour to shift the weight created by the pain, frustration and dissatisfaction we experience in the day-to-day. Being governed by the gentle and kindly advice to STOP LOOK GO helps tremendously to reframe many difficult and tangling situations.
You enter a state of being that is happy, cheery and jubilant rather than being swept away by the immediacies that are brought to bear on your current situation. Your scope begins to expand and you begin to train your mind to be less fixated over what is missing or flawed in any situation. By dedicating your life doing this practice on a persistent basis over time will overcome any obstacle or disincentive to the process. You will then learn to drink in life's wonderous joys and failing to do it will eventually begin to ultimately seem counter-intuitive.
In modern society people are too obsessed over “doing” and not “being” – we have become socialized to living in a fast paced world of having to be somewhere that we neglect to stop and literally smell the roses. By the time you retire many people have commented that “its ok to just be” for a change. Life without the pleasures of enjoyment are rather bleak but by engaging in the enterprise of STOP LOOK GO life can become a kind of paradise in the making. Patience is the essence of the process in this rich and powerful message. We need to constantly remind ourself through daily habit of this poignant simple and pure teaching to STOP LOOK GO.
Even though brother David is a monk, STOP LOOK GO is totally unrelated to religious principles yet echoes through holy catholic church orthodoxy, zen meditation and even Islam. It is an outcropping of Jen-Luc Marion's French post-modern patristic and mystic philosophy and Martin Heidegger's German philosophy and nermeneutics. Heidegger proposed that this “givenness” existing on all planes of reality is known as “gegebenheit” which alludes to being in the world or what is to say our perceptions of any given moment . STOP LOOK GO is used in the form of a secularist notion rather than a uniform religious belief system. It can be used to shape our human potential and expand existing range of experiences apart from just simply radiating more happiness.
The only way to achieve everlasting fulfilment is to face the simple truth of life that everything that exists is an expression of creator energy. It exists for us to learn to cultivate a more receptive state of being that enables us to witness more of life even if seems to exist on subtle less noticeable levels. Its existentialism 101 where consciousness meets the all levels of awareness - mental, physical and spiritual.
Its very easy to get lulled into cynicism, the mind is conditioned to operate on the basis of a negative outlook given the fact there is so much that causes pain and injustice in the world. But all we have is really is the now eternal moment which can be be either given over to “chaos”, by default or freed to be dressed up as a very pleasant and authentic “ordering” of reality. Even if you have been a cynic and was indoctrinated to believe that all of life was a curse...that this was the only absolute nature of the world - one of harshness and toil.
If your life has been insufferable go outside and look up and say thank-you and begin to feel the aliveness that comes from bearing witness to the tingling sensations of observing joy from now and into the next years of your life. It requires no tenacious, heroic or willed mindset - its a long term practice. We can all strive to do better by recovering our essence of curiosity about the world, seizing the day and expanding our existing reaches and perspectives. Gratefulness has a immense effect on your neurology. How we think can shape our outlook and significant improve our wellbeing considerably. In a book called “Thanks” based on a study by Eammons and McCullough they devised a 10 week research study that determined that gratitude can in fact increase your happiness “set-point”
In a world where common sense is becoming rare, we don't need to be disenfranchised and bitter seekers of the truth – we have options about the ways and means that we meet life head-on. We should therefore be motivated to make it more convivial and joyful by cultivating a grateful mind-set. Many times we look at other peoples lives with some kind of envy and longing but we need to understand we have our own reasons to be happy. By participating in a little deep reflection and soul searching we will soon discern that our life is uniquely ours with its own salient features and carpe diem that offer immeasurable consolation. Gratitude is rooted in the senses and our senses are always approaching what brings us enjoyment.
To adhere to the practice requires daily ongoing consistency. To be able to persist we need to remind ourselves what our motivations are for engaging in this process in the first instance and remind us when we fall short to do what is required to get back on our horse. Gratitude can be cultivated by almost anyone in life and being happy involves a recognition that you have the ability to enjoy things in life no matter how simple it may be. In reality we were born empty-handed and when you die you will be empty-handed so the inbetweens serve as the inherent gift. We are given so much every day and we require a more purposeful and deliberate act of seeking things to be grateful for until it becomes a natural state of being.
“Grace is the free undeserved, unearned and unmerited favor of God and God's gift to everyone.”
Happiness stems from mastery and the source of all such happiness is opportunity. The opportunity is provided each passing second. To recognise this gives sufficient motivation to settle the mind to be open and be in a state of receiving. In a world where people want and crave misery its much cheaper easier to sink into negative states than to maintain an engagement with what life is potentially offering you from a expanded state of plenty. Not only that when you are grateful you want others to be as equally as empowered and not exhibiting callousness and iniquity towards the less fortunate but a feeling of a debt you owe to others from your state of good fortune.
Our moods are precarious things and Shopenhauer a German philosophical pessimist said for the most part people are annoyed by life to varying degrees even though there may be unequal disparities in luck and misery. His work captured the notion of malignant metaphysical will and went on to say “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world” In essence we are not invulnerable to insult, injury and death. There exists one thing with certitude and that is our lives are finite and our ultimate demise is something we all must face. You can't tacitly presume you will live indefinitely. At the end of life we have all have an epiphany that will focus on all the time we wasted focussing on excessive ruminating and pensiveness in our emotional life - “If only I had done this”. The same thought repeated thousands of times over your life when it could have been better spent taking life less for granted and focussing on the inherent good.
This wake-up call causes us to revision our world view as time is marching on at a rapid pace. Your life is sacred and the reality of your life is NOW as Eckhart Tolle says no matter how much you need to invest in preparing for the future and mitigating against risks – all that precious time is being expended. It requires urgent corrective action to avoid this unconscionable amount of time devoted to this misuse of human energy. STOP LOOK GO is a finely calibrated way of satisfying this longing for living in a better state of NOW. The line between timeless wisdom and banality in this world is hard to find, but the STOP LOOK GO principle achieves a spontaneous state of gratitude with almost guaranteed sureness in any given moment where witnessing arises. Its not to say we want more pleasure or an easy passage through life, much of life realistically always entails struggle but borne of this is many a great thing and many of us have been able to put struggle in its proper perspective, make something of it and even enjoy the struggle itself.
“The past is always arising in the present and the future is another thought arising now. We spend most of our lives repudiating it, fleeing it” ~ Sam Harris, philosophical atheist and neuroscientist.
This change in attitude and attentiveness can be further explained by the fact that the brain's capacity to see is generally very limited. In any given time our snapshot view of the world only absorbs a limited amount of information and data so introspection and rumination can only offer a very poor and restrictive view of the world. How dissatisfied in the present do you have to be to create a satisfying future, how unhappy do you needlessly have to be? If you had the chance to avoid missing out on your life would you accept the invitation to avoid the discursive thought that perpetuates the sorrow, self doubt, anxiety and fear? Thinking is useful but being perpetually lost in thoughts that yield nothing but suffering and woe. Are you going to be held hostage to the next thought? The antidote that is compatible with reason is to be found HERE:
STOP LOOK GO!