Spirituality rightly understood is aliveness…and we are fully spiritual when we come alive on the highest level of our caring for one another and caring for this planet. ~ Br. David Steindl-Rast, Choices in Action, 1995
Br. David Steindl-Rast is currently back home in Europe — healthy and grateful — and this week, will celebrate his 95th birthday on July 12. We are moved to celebrate the life of “this dancing prayer of a man,” with an invitation to engage in a practice of caring for one another and for this beautiful planet. We hope you will join us.
And how might we begin such a practice? Br. David writes, “Gratefulness has three steps: not missing the opportunity, appreciating the opportunity, and using or enjoying the opportunity. By this method we come fully alive, full of joy, which is what we are all longing for.” Heeding this advice, let us turn toward, appreciate, and enjoy this opportunity to allow a felt sense of gratefulness to overflow into acts of care this week…and beyond.
Caring from Gratefulness — A Practice
- Find yourself in a comfortable position. Begin by taking a few slow, deep breaths. Close your eyes or assume a soft gaze. Feel the places where your body connects with the ground, and feel the ground support you as it connects with these places. Let the cares and concerns of the day go out with the breath. Arrive fully into this moment.
- Now bring to mind and heart someone or something for whom or which you feel grateful. It could be Br. David himself — his playfulness and depth or the generosity and aliveness through which he has articulated and embodied the gifts of grateful living. It could be a person who has been kind to you, or a beloved animal friend who has loved you unconditionally. Or perhaps it is a more universal, awe-inspiring “friend” such as the life-giving companionship of your breath, the breathtaking magnificence of a starry sky, or the experience of aliveness in your body — my goodness, you have a body!
- Allowing this image, memory, or sense to rest in your mind and heart, notice how you feel. What sensations, if any, arise? Perhaps an inner or outer smile appears or a sense of wonder, gratitude, poignancy or sadness. A feeling of warmth, aliveness, joy, or full-heartedness may become apparent. Perhaps you don’t feel anything right now and that too is an experience. Simply allow your attention to rest on whatever is present to you in this moment — whatever that may be. Breathe.
- Now, gently bring to mind the question: How might this great fullness overflow into an act of care?
- Notice what arises and, from this spirit of grateful generosity, commit to following through with a few, intentional acts of care this week.
Following are some possible acts of care or kindness:
- Send someone a note, picture, or poem inspired by your appreciation.
- Do something kind and compassionate for yourself.
- Plant a tree, put out a bird feeder, or tend a garden.
- Express an apology where it might bring healing.
- Offer help to a person, animal, or place that needs caring attention.
- Support an organization whose work is meaningful to you.
- Release a habit, or cultivate a new one, that brings your life in greater alignment with values you hold dear.
- Allow yourself to experience in your body how it feels to act kindly to yourself, to others, and to our planet.
As additional inspiration for your week of practice, we offer the short (5:50) video below. Filmed at the “Choices in Action” Symposium in Colorado in 1995, Br. David leads the audience in a canon called “Come Alive.”
We invite you to share your reflections in the space below.