Grateful living asks us to connect with those things that matter most deeply to us, and to recognize these commitments as an integral part of our ongoing effort to make life better for all.

We live in a world in which systemic forms of oppression and suffering have long been pervasive. Whether we have experienced discrimination, violence or poverty ourselves, or our hearts have opened wide to their existence, most of us are impacted. And sometimes we encounter the suffering of the human condition from both outside and inside ourselves, as if our skin were but a scant, permeable membrane separating us from…nothing.

As a response to injustice and pain, many of us feel called to actively try to make a difference. And yet, facing suffering and so many needs directly, we can experience heartbreak, overwhelm, and/or outrage that can lead to exhaustion or a sense of impotence. We know we are “against” what is happening, but may lack clarity about how to channel our actions so that they actually have the impact we desire, and effectively express our vision for a better world.

How do we best care for the vast, exquisitely diverse global family and Earth to which we belong? What are constructive and sustainable actions that can make the difference we long to make? Within the inevitable uncertainty of trying to do “the right thing,” we risk perseverating about what to do, without actually “doing” very much at all. Or else we “do” so much that we end up depleted and overwrought. These are the times when the practice of “grateful living” can be a least likely, but most potent, form of guidance and inspiration for making a meaningful difference.

In every moment, grateful living asks us to STOP. To LOOK. To GO. When times are chaotic, urgent, and dire, this methodical, contemplative approach to action can be challenging because it requires us to pause and consider, rather than reflexively, always “doing.” Yet the benefits, in the short and long run, are compelling.

By seriously slowing down, even for a moment, we can become cognizant of the intense privileges and blessings of being awake and alive.

man walking in field

We STOP to connect with the deepest truths, principles, and concerns of our hearts; to breathe and become grounded in our bodies and in our awareness. By seriously slowing down, even for a moment, we can become cognizant of the intense privileges and blessings of being awake and alive. Claiming the gifts of our lives is not an indulgence. Instead, by accepting and appreciating what we have, we are reminded of what we have going “for” us that many in the world do not. Gaining this perspective allows us to shine more brightly with a sense of possibility and responsibility to improve life for others, in the ways that we can. Stopping also helps us to become more strategic in our actions. By connecting to our breath and gratitude first, we’re more able to find our focus and to move forward with intention. Even super-heroes chart their course.

We LOOK in order to notice our surroundings, available opportunities, and to recognize the resources, tools, and passions with which we can make a difference. “Looking within” helps us to be more connected to a sense of purpose and our fundamental principles, and therefore to be less scattered and reactive. Standing firmly in the sacredness of our values, and clear about what we love and cherish, we can better stand our ground with integrity and resolve.

We can gain inspiration from remembering that through ongoing, collective action people have always made a difference.

When we look outside ourselves, we recognize that we are not alone; we are one among many who care, and are part of a long history of activism and change. We can gain inspiration from remembering that through ongoing, collective action people have always made a difference. With an expanded gaze and perspective we are able to learn from those who came before us and those who surround us, and can find the hope we need, in ourselves and each other, to do what we feel called to do.

    • Grateful for democracy? Uphold it.
    • Grateful for diversity? Protect it.
    • Grateful for our Earth? Care for it.
    • Grateful for freedom? Defend it.
    • Grateful for love? Spread it.
    • Grateful for justice? Fortify it.
    • Grateful for community? Nurture it.
    • Grateful for peace? Live it.

Finally, we GO. When we actively take a stand for the things for which we are most grateful, our actions are “sourced” differently. Committed to that which we most deeply treasure, we uncover reserves of energy, vigor, and clarity that can fuel and sustain our activism, and sustain us as we act. Actions which arise from grateful awareness can be more creative, relevant, effective, sustaining, and meaningful.

When a form of activism connects us to our interests, gifts and joys, we will find greater ease and pleasure in the doing, making it more likely we can “stay the course.” Love to make art? Paint posters and postcards. Love to write? Blogs and poems are forms of activism, too. Love to be quiet? Sit vigil. Love to connect with people? Organize with like-minded others. Movements for change succeed and thrive when many different kinds of people can find their place for self-expression. And we are always in need of new forms of creative activism as the conditions around us change. The important thing is for each of us to do something meaningful to take a stand when our values, passions, and hearts are ignited.

Grateful living helps us to sustain our actions on behalf of the natural world and human community by continually reminding and supporting us to recognize that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

Grateful living asks us to connect with those things that matter most deeply to us, and to recognize these commitments as an integral part of our ongoing effort to make life better for all. It stimulates our inherent passion to preserve and protect what we value, and therefore, to empathize and align with the needs and values of others. Grateful living helps us to sustain our actions on behalf of the natural world and human community by continually reminding and supporting us to recognize that we are part of something far larger than ourselves. And it offers the nourishment of a consistent wellspring of principles and practices that can truly guide, hold, and sustain us in the sacred work, and very long haul, of loving this world.


Possibility
Appreciation is Generative
#Peace
Articles
Kristi Nelson

Kristi Nelson

Executive Director

About the author
Kristi Nelson is Executive Director of A Network for Grateful Living and the author of Wake Up Grateful: The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted. Her life’s work in the non-profit sector has focused on leading, inspiring, and strengthening organizations committed to progressive social and spiritual change. Being a long-time stage IV cancer survivor moves her every day to support others in living and loving with great fullness of heart. Learn more about Kristi here.