Many years ago there was a television commercial for Cadillac that I liked very much. Rather than the noisy hype about all the features of a car it simply showed a Cadillac driving down the road, silently. Then a voice said . . . “quietly doing things very well.” In those days I didn’t have a spiritual lens, I simply liked it because of the contrast between its quiet elegance and the other automobile brands slick hype. Today I do have a spiritual lens and as I contemplated writing about one of my favorite mystics the tag line came back to me: “Brother David Steindl-Rast – quietly doing things very well.” It’s a beautiful description of his work in the world.
For those of you who aren’t aware of Brother David and his work, you’ll find that his website, A Network for Grateful Living, is a treasure trove of material supporting the practice of gratitude in service to the world. The organization is described this way: “Our international nonprofit organization provides resources for living in the gentle power of gratefulness, which restores courage, reconciles relationships, and heals our Earth.” Brother David defines gratefulness as “the full response to a given moment and all it contains which is a universal spiritual practice that inspires personal transformation, cross-cultural understanding, interfaith dialogue, intergenerational respect, nonviolent conflict resolution and ecological sustainability.”
Brother David is a senior member of the Benedictine community. He is well known as a major bridge builder between spiritual traditions, particularly Buddhist-Christian dialogue. He’s divided his time for many years between living a hermit’s and a life of traveling and teaching on five continents. He is tireless in his effort to introduce the practice of gratitude, into monastic communities as to the world at large.
Devotion is not my long suit, but the first time I met Brother David, I wanted to fall on my knees. The love he radiates, quietly, with no hype, lifts a room and everyone in it. In this season of Thanksgiving here in the States, I am grateful for many wonderful beings whose work is changing our world. At the top of my list is Brother David Steindl-Rast for his 60 plus years of quiet service to the planet. Check out his website, sign up for the daily gratefulness message, take an on-line course, but most of all try looking at life through the lens of gratitude.
Here’s a practice that may serve you well during the holiday season. Choose someone to practice with whom you are in contact with via email. Take 5-10 minutes in the evening and send your practice partner an email listing all the experiences where you felt gratitude that day. Your partner will do the same, however there is no need for conversation as what you are providing for each other is a receptive ear. Much like discovering a new model car and then seeing it everywhere, focusing your attention in this way will increase your capacity to experience the world through the lens of gratitude. Writing to your partner will help you maintain the discipline of the practice. Within a few days you may find that life takes on a new flavor . . . enjoy!