It is impossible for me to see the moon and not rejoice in its beauty. I am so grateful that we have a moon that sails through the dark night skies, never the same, always changing, but always an ethereal beauty that makes me pause to inhale joy. What a treasure it is, and what a gift to the life of the planet, as the seas roll in and out from the shore with its irresistible pull, like lungs breathing for the planet. Would life have emerged from the birthing seas without the oceanic dance with the moon?

This photo above was shared by Heather Cox Richardson in one of her blogs, and I had to pause and take in this beauty. No matter what is going on in the world, there is always a chance to pause and feel grateful for the beauty and life around us. 

In his book Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, our dear friend and brother, David Steindl-Rast, writes, “Most of us, if not all, have moments in which we are overwhelmed by a sense of belonging, of universal wholeness and holiness, in which everything makes sense…Gratefulness pervades every aspect of these experiences.” Gratefulness is the heart of our deepest experiences of the sacred.

When I focus my attention on gratefulness, my heart opens and breathes in the sacredness that is rooted in all the manifest life around me, and it is a breath rich with joy.

For me, gratefulness is a full-body experience. When I focus my attention on gratefulness, my heart opens and breathes in the sacredness that is rooted in all the manifest life around me, and it is a breath rich with joy. And with that enriched breath, my boundaries both expand and thin so that my body is also the body of nature. All the life around me, seen and unseen, breathes with me, and all that shared communion sings with joy and the ‘gratefulness of prayer’. It is as though life sings hosannas to the Great Mystery, all together in harmony. Every life form is a prayer to the Sacred, and my gratefulness opens my heart to this chorus of life. Joy and love overflow into blessing.

Gratefulness is not the same as gratitude. It seems to me that gratitude is more about giving thanks for something given to me. It is transactional. But gratefulness is a state of being, a presence of love within the heart. It is a universal quality of being much like Joy and Love. It has no reason for being other than that it simply is part of the song of our souls.

This time of year in the north is the time of harvest, a time of gathering the fruits of the season’s labors and celebrating by sharing food and warmth and community.  In the US and Canada, we have Thanksgiving–a traditional time set aside to gather together and share a feast. In other countries’ traditions, there are Harvest Festivals of various kinds with similar intent. Having a special time set aside to honor and to give thanks for the abundance in our lives and for gifts given is important. In my family, it was a treasured time for the scattered uncles, aunts, and cousins to come together in the joy of just being together, sharing food, playing soccer, and laughing a lot. It was a celebration of joy and love and was always looked forward to. I can’t say enough about how important it was to us all. 

Even during pain, we can be surprised by joy and a flood of gratefulness that fills the heart to overflowing.

But gratefulness is an everyday state of being, an attitude of heart intentionally and mindfully open to the beauty of the world and the gifts of the sacred. Gratefulness, for life, for a body that breathes and feels, for the joy of being in a world that is so rich with beauty and vitality, is a whole-body experience. Even during pain, we can be surprised by joy and a flood of gratefulness that fills the heart to overflowing. And it is that overflowing that offers the blessing that Brother David speaks of, casting its light all around the world, joining with other lights in their blessings, for no other reason than simply because that is what we are made for as human beings. In this overflow, the whole is gifted.

I watch the moon shrink back to disappearance and rejoice again in its thin sliver of beauty, giving the stars more stage for their light to shine. This also is part of the breath of my heart’s joy — the distant twinkling beauty of the stars! And the dance goes on, the fullness of that bright full moon night light will again illuminate the dark skies…and again…and again…

Brother David also says, “To bless whatever there is, and for no other reason but simply because it is, that is what we are made for as human beings.”

Gratefulness opens me to love, and love is the blessing the heart gives the world. May your heart be filled with gratefulness and your eyes be surprised by joy in the world around you.

This essay was originally published by Lorian and has been reprinted with kind permission of the author.

Photo by Heather Cox Richardson


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Julia Spangler

Julia Spangler

About the author
Julia Spangler is the President of the Board of the Lorian Association. She is a Lorian Priest and teaches online classes for Lorian as well as parenting classes for local preschool parents. She lived at the Findhorn community in Scotland for two years where she met her husband, David, and the others with whom she co-founded Lorian. She lives in Issaquah, WA with her husband and four nearby adult children. She loves the mystery and beauty of our world, and the profound variety of people in it.