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Gratefulness: the Key to Happiness (David Steindl-Rast)

Today (31/12/2013) I watched a recently-recorded TED talk by David Steindl-Rast. Some have said the mantle of Thomas Merton has fallen on this gentle Benedictine monk.

I remember when he came to Melbourne in the 1980s and a small group of us were privileged to spend a day with him, sitting in a circle in a monastery. I was seated next to him, and while he was talking I noticed he used his thumb to turn a knotted leather rosary-type thing around his index finger. I asked him about it. ‘Oh, yes, that’s the Jesus Prayer – ‘Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner.’ ‘How often to do you pray that, consciously or unconsciously, every day?’ ‘Thousands of times…’

Now to his recent talk (easy to find: use his name and Google TED talks):

Everyone wants to be happy. But not all happy people are grateful (they want more of something, or want something else); but all grateful people (even though many live with misfortune) are happy.

So: it’s not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.

Every moment is a gift, and ‘opportunity’ is the gift within every gift.

The master key to happiness? Moment by moment we have this gift.

In some moments we’re not happy – because of someone’s suffering, loss of a friend, etc.

But the key here is that we’re learning something in every moment: patience, for example. And then in the next moment we get another opportunity.

How should we respond to all these opportunities? Same as you were taught as a child about crossing the street: STOP, LOOK, GO.

STOP when you turn on the water-faucet: millions don’t have access to drinkable water. Or ditto when you turn on the power switch. (David’s put little ‘gratefulness stickers’ on the tap and light-switch at his place, after a trip to Africa where these good things weren’t available.)

LOOK – open your eyes, and your hearts (use the opportunity to make others happy).

GO – Do something!

Grateful people are not fearful, and therefore not violent. Grateful people are joyful people.


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