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.
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.
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Thank you for your article. It was good to remember that we can all do something even if we can’t do everything to save the world from so much unnecessary suffering. It is so important to keep in mind that when we cultivate peace within ourselves, we are then able to carry that out into our activism wherever we are taken. To do otherwise is to lose hope when we realize how overwhelming are the needs of the world. Your article reminded of this quote from Thomas Merton “There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
― Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
Dear Sky – This is one of my favorite quotes and one that I work to remember in my daily activities. Thank you for sharing it. Indeed, as the needs of the world only seem to escalate, it seems especially important to be intentional and wholehearted in our responses, rather than following the impulse to be frenetic. Thanks for your resonance with the message we are sharing…
Thank you for your article. I can often feel conflicted from a tender heart that longs to remain in a place of gratitude and is genuinely touched by the beauty of our world, with an internal, activist that is awake and conscious to the depth of commitment, turmoil, disrespect and destruction that is being continuously validated, in the name of economic growth. Seeing clearly, can feel hard for my heart. The self-sustenance that you name, Kristi, is essential.
Thank you for sharing this beautiful reflection, Debra, that I know has a place of deep resonance for me and many. Your articulation of the conflict is clear and compelling. May we hold each other and ourselves tenderly on this path.
Oh Kristi this is so beautiful! Thank-you! I am an introvert and not a joiner, but I have found there are simple things I can do “in my own backyard” to help. I live in a Senior Citizen complex and I enjoy writing notes and cards to the residents here. They are so appreciative and have told me how much it means to them. I pick up litter on my daily walk in service to Mother Earth and I bless everyone who litters. These simple things is what works for me. We all have different ways of helping, caring and being of service. I am just so abundantly blessed and profoundly grateful! This site has been so tremendously helpful to me! Thank-you to all at ANGL!!! My heart is so filled with love and gratitude! Life is such a precious gift!
Peace, love and blessings to all, Sheila ??
Thank you Sheila. Your examples of loving the world are beautiful as they are yours! To honor ourselves as we act for greater benefit is so meaningful. Thank you for always lighting the way…
Kristi, thank-you for your kind reply! All your replys are so beautiful and come from your heart. Such a wonderful energy is transmitted through everything that comes from ANGL. Thank-you!
Blessings, Sheila ?
As one who is deeply committed to addressing climate change, your words resonate.
I am a physician who has reduced my practice in order to volunteer with an organization that focuses on “what we are for” rather than “what we are against” (a federal/global price on greenhouse gas emissions). We build the political will to allow this to happen by building relationships, engaging with ALL people from a point of generosity and respect, even if her/his point of view differs from our own.
Gratefulness.org has served as food for my soul as I have the privilege to navigate these trouble times with hope and perseverance.
With gratitude for your work, Lisa
Thank you so much Lisa. This is such a powerful story and tribute to your heart. The world is blessed by your convictions and commitments. We are blessed by your presence here. Stay close.
Thank you Kristi and Gratefulness Staff and Community… I’m grateful for breath, trees. Grandson, my children, Alicia and Richard..my husband Steve, the mountains that surround me. Grateful to God, Jesus, my beloved friend and brother. ????
Thank you Anita for reflecting on what you love. May you love the world with the appreciation of your beloved.