I greatly admire the way the Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast talks about gratefulness and thankfulness without using religious language.
As a monk the religious tradition influences every aspect of his daily life. Yet, in his TED talk he does not use religious language. He gets right to the heart of our human experience.
He has a striking phrase ‘What is the opportunity of this given moment?’
Religious practice is supposed to bring life. It is not supposed to be an end in itself – a language and practice for its own sake.
Here is an extract of his conversation with Krista Tippet from the On Being podcast.
David Steindl Rast:
When you are in practice, a split second is enough to stop. And then you look. What is, now, the opportunity of this given moment? Only this moment, the unique opportunity this moment gives? And that is where this beholding comes in.
And if we really see what the opportunity is, we must, of course, not stop there, but we must do something with it. Go. Avail yourself of that opportunity. And if you do that, if you try practicing that at this moment, tonight, we would already be happier people, because it has an immediate feedback of joy.
I always say not — I don’t speak of the gift, because not for everything that’s given to you can you really be grateful. You can’t be grateful for war in a given situation, or violence, or domestic violence, or sickness, things like that. There are many things for which you cannot be grateful.
But in every moment, you can be grateful. For instance, the opportunity to learn something from a very difficult experience, what to grow by it, or even to protest, to stand up, and take a stand. That is a wonderful gift in a situation in which things are not the way they ought to be.
So, opportunity is really the key when people ask, can you be grateful for everything? No, not for everything, but in every moment.’