A Network for Grateful Living [gratefulnessorg]
What is your specialty? How do you help people find harmony?
Through our websites, www.gratefulness.org and www.dankbarkeit.org, and through workshops and local groups, we give people tools and resources for the practice of grateful living as a global ethic: that is, living with the recognition that each moment, perceived clearly, is a gift. This awareness builds harmony by bringing inner peace, deepening one's appreciation of others, and developing a wellspring of wisdom about how to live simply and well. Each day more than 20,000 people worldwide find inspiration in our free services.
Can you provide a link to a web site or blog where we can learn more about you?
Yes! You can find us at www.gratefulness.org (in English) or www.dankbarkeit.org (in German). You can also visit us on Twitter -- https://twitter.com/#!/gratefulnessorg -- and Facebook -- http://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Network-for-Grateful-Living-ANGL/132840248453.
What were the circumstances that led you to choose the professional path you have chosen?
The path to our developing www.gratefulness.org was rather accidental (viewed from one perspective) or fortuitous (viewed from another). In the late 1990s, friends of Br. David Steindl-Rast, an author and speaker renowned for his work in interfaith dialog, wanted to help him start a website. When they tried to choose a URL based on his work, many were already taken: Listening.org, CommonSense.org, and so forth. But Gratefulness.org was available, and gratefulness was a theme by which Br. David was well known.
This slightly random selection turned out to be perfect for us. We wanted to cover the whole gamut of Br. David's concerns: peacemaking, religious harmony, the arts, caring for the earth, and more. Gratefulness served as a pun for the "great fullness" of life, the overflowing cup of gratitude for all life's free gifts. And so our website was born.
Our growth into an organization had a similarly intriguing trajectory. We wanted to build a network of people interested in the practice of grateful living, so we started to call ourselves NGL: Network for Grateful Living. But a friend saw that acronym and remarked, "That looks a bit like ANGEL. Is that what you intended?" Her words helped us morph into ANG*L, A Network for Grateful Living.
How do you deal with discouragement, despair, a sense of setback, etc.?
It is impossible to be grateful for everything, especially things that cause suffering to us or to those we love. But it is possible to be grateful for the *opportunity* embedded in each experience. Sometimes we have to dig deep to find these opportunities. It helps to ask yourself questions like: How can I be of service in this situation? What quality or personality trait -- such as courage, patience, generosity, or creativity -- does this demand of me, and how can I strengthen that quality? What encounters am I having with people as a result of this experience that enrich my life even though the experience per se is so grueling? How can I use my own difficulty to ease the way of others? As we begin to notice and avail ourselves of these opportunities, we discover reason to be grateful. And gratefulness brings happiness in its train, because we can recognize the ways that our cup gets filled again and again throughout life.
Is faith necessary for spirituality to work?
Br. David Steindl-Rast, co-founder of www.gratefulness.org, writes, "Faith and the spiritual path are inseparable from one another. Faith is that dynamism of going on the path. Faith is what makes it possible for you to go on.
"Now, you see immediately that faith in this sense must mean something other than believing something. Faith includes believing in something, because life includes believing something. But the emphasis on believing something, which we have connected with faith in recent Christian tradition, is lopsided, even dangerous, because in the full concept, faith is not primarily believing something, but is primarily trusting someone. Faith is not giving your signature to a list of beliefs and dogmas. That will come in eventually – but what faith is, from the very start, is courageous trust. It may start simply with trust in life, and eventually open its way toward trust in the Source of all life."
Is it necessary to have a teacher to find the way?
Yes, but it is not necessary that a teacher be a human being whom you meet in waking consciousness. A profound book by someone who lived long ago can be your teacher. An intense life experience like cancer treatment can be your teacher. A beloved pet can be your teacher. Your garden can be your teacher.
A person you meet in a dream can teach you, too, sometimes by fascinating puns that make you laugh once you realize their significance. For instance, you might dream that your sister is obsessed with placemats, and you wake up realizing how hard you've been struggling to find your place in your family.
If you wish you had a teacher, we suggest that you call one to yourself, trusting what a much-revered rabbi said: "Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find." Maintaining a grateful spirit makes you much more open to the teachings and teachers already around you.
Is there a false face to positive thinking; an obsession about appearing happy that is not healthy?
Yes, absolutely. Anyone who has lived through serious illness, war, an abusive relationship, or other calamities knows that for many if not most people, happiness is hard won. What's true is that by effort in meditation, prayer, and other reflective practices you can align your heart, mind, and will to make the best of the circumstances you encounter, and often this will lead to improved circumstances for yourself and those around you. But the value of grief should not be cast aside.
Grief and joy are more like twin sisters than the sworn enemies we often take them to be. Both speak to listening hearts. Both contain unfathomable depths of feeling. And both point towards gratefulness: Grief comes from a heartrending appreciation of what matters most to us; while joy reawakens us to life’s wonder even when we’ve discovered how precarious it is.
What is your short list of healthy habits?
Keep a list of things for which you are grateful.
Find ways to live in harmony with daily rhythms of dawn, day, dusk, and dark: whether by set prayers at given hours or by paying attention to the sun, by having unwavering disciplines (a walk, a quiet time of reading, a call to a loved one) that happen faithfully each day at the same time, or by some other way of revering the presence of eternity in the moments of time.
Eat whole, vital foods (organic if possible) and get plenty of fresh air and exercise.
If as a general rule you can go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day, your body will be much more content. Naps, when possible, work wonders.
Develop creative outlets: writing, art, music, conversation, woodworking, gardening - whatever works for you.
Offer your life in compassionate service while making sure to take care of yourself since you are the vehicle of the kindness you bestow.
A Network for Grateful Living
Ithaca, NY USA