Five Reflections on Gratitude and Grateful Living


Grateful love leafGratitude is the antidote to many of our ills. I recently posted in my Team Wellness series. I also talk about gratefulness in my self-care and team wellness workshops. We used a portion of David Steindl-Rast’s Ted Talk for a wellness free forum presentation a couple of years back. So, when he showed up on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday series on November 29th, I couldn’t help but tune in. I so loved his definitions and suggestions that I wanted to write about them and share my reflections with you.

Finding joy is the path to happiness

Steindl-Rast says that all people yearn to be happy while simultaneously aware that happiness does not last. Instead, he suggests a focus on joy. Joy, he says, “can be found in the midst of unhappiness.” Perhaps I resonate with this because of my personality type. I am an Enneagram 7; sometimes known as the adventurer or joy-filled person. I have the uncanny ability to see the upside of most any downside. Giving joy is the gift of my type and I can find joy almost anywhere, “even in the midst of suffering” as Steindl-Rast states.

My suffering, or perhaps learning, includes a son on the autism spectrum and a daughter with an eating disorder. I have been divorced and lost a job. I would not be doing what I’m doing today, working on connecting others to themselves, others, and Earth, if I’d not been through those trials. They taught me patience, compassion, and perspective. They also showed me my own strength and skills in overcoming. This journey through suffering has led me to study Adlerian psychology and later Ecopsychology. Today, I do some of the most fulfilling work of my life.

Love is yes to belonging

The definition of love Steindl-Rast gave; “a lived yes to belonging” is so powerful. Alfred Adler has belonging as one of the basic human goals. You see belonging in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. You see the yearning for belonging in all the movements of today, like #metoo and #blacklivesmatter. We all just want to belong!

Steindl-Rast goes on to say that this means we must “love our enemies because they have as much right to belong.” He says we love them through listening, by stopping for a moment to ask ourselves if the other person might be right. He goes further to say we don’t need to agree. We simply must focus on the issues and then search for common ground.

I have been working on a series of workshops on inclusion. If I look at the heart of the program, it is about how to make sure everyone belongs. We need all experiences and perspectives at the table and providing their voices if we are to work toward solving any of today’s social and environmental problems. We show love by making sure everyone feels a sense of belonging and community.

Hope is opening to surprise

Hopes are things you can imagine, while hope is having an openness to surprise, Steindl-Rast explained. He says if you trust life, it will surprise you. He goes on to say you can either withhold trust or give it.

This one feels tough because fully being open and trusting means we must let go of our assumptions and rigid beliefs. When I think of letting go and letting life happen, my mind floats back to my personality. The vice of my Enneagram 7 is planning. I feel like I can plan my way out of most things (so I can avoid pain). I remember working on another Wellness Free Forum event with a colleague and before our planning meeting, starting to think through the entire program. I caught myself in detailed planning mode and decided just to have some ideas in my head but go into the meeting totally open to what might happen. In the end, the event was much better when I simply let go of the finite details. I allowed room for surprise.

Your uniqueness is your calling

When I am coaching people, I often hear a sense of missing purpose. I think people assume you have been given only one purpose and when they can’t articulate it, they must have missed it. Steindl-Rast explains that “life is that great mystery that we confront as human beings.” In the interview, Oprah goes on to respond that life is “mystery expressing itself through them [each unique person].”

No one has the same heritage, background, experiences, skills, and outlook as you. Your job is to express your very own uniqueness into the world. No one has my mix of personality, German heritage, farm upbringing, family system, childhood experiences, life experiences, and set of skills. No one. And, no one has what you have either.

For networking for my business, I spend a little time on LinkedIn. One thing that drives me a little crazy is how often people reference how to be like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and other business icons. They teach us things for sure, but they each have their downfalls too. Like I am doing here, it’s okay to point out what they teach, but more importantly, it is reflecting on what those lessons mean to your own life.

My daughter and I joke around that we are weird. I quickly say that weird is another word for unique. What does your uniqueness offer the world? As a coach, I can help you embrace your uniqueness. I would be happy to explore with you.

Spirit is common sense

During the session Oprah read an excerpt from the book Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, where Stiendl-Rast talks about how the word spirit has been misused and a better term to use is common sense. The excerpt goes on to talk about how we feel the spirit through our senses. Since we all have senses, that is what makes us common. And our common sense “leads us to an awareness that we are all one” as Stiendl-Rast ends the topic of spirit.

This brings me joy because I use a sensory activity at the beginning of my some of my workshops related to The Outdoor Life Task (as I like to call it). When we stop to pay attention to our senses, to deeply feel what is going on around us, it calms the brain and body and helps us feel alive in the present moment. When we are alive and present, it’s easier to find joy, be surprised, and connect to our inner beauty; connect to spirit.

Parting thoughts

As I was working on this piece this morning, I was thinking about the joy in my life. I sent a pick-me-up text to a friend whom I knew was going to face a hard day. Shortly after that, I heard the amazing news that an upcoming workshop on ethics and responsibilities in outdoor therapy I am co-teaching has been approved by our marriage and family therapy board for continuing education credits. Then I received a warm text from a friend I hadn’t heard from for a while.

Today, I am present. I feel joy. I have been surprised. I feel the spirit within through paying attention to what is around me. I trust that what is coming to my attention is what I should be doing. I am abundantly blessed and living today gratefully.

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Photo notes

The photo above was taken during a hike at the campground where I have a seasonal site. The leaf is an example of what you might be surprised by if you are present in the day. I was searching for leaves that were calling me to be placed in my latest nature art piece (below). Use all of your senses in nature and you will find peace, awe, happiness, and joy!

Grateful leaf art

Tags: #grateful #gratefulness #gratitude
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