More than just a feeling, gratitude is actually a practice: one we can cultivate and even develop, which will transform our experience of ourselves, our lives, and our world. Br. David Vryhof offers practical encouragement for rediscovering this essential, countercultural practice. Find out why there is always reason for gratitude. Go to https://www.ssje.org to find out more.
SSJE is a convenient way of describing the “Society of Saint John the Evangelist”
Br. David Vryhof lives at the Monastery in Cambridge where he serves as Communication Brother. He loves that his day is grounded in the Daily Office (while his actual office is grounded in plenty of post-it notes and to-do lists!). He is the community’s sole sports fan.
|cultivating our awareness and response
– Br. David Vryhof, SSJE
I have a memory of my fifth-grade teacher asking us to write a short paragraph describing the things in our lives for which we were thankful. I sat for the longest time just staring at that piece of paper. I couldn’t think of a thing for which I was thankful.
I was surrounded by gifts, but I didn’t recognize them as gifts, and so I couldn’t begin to express my gratitude for them. I naively assumed that everyone had food and clothing, a loving family and a comfortable home. I was unaware of how privileged I was to enjoy these things on a daily basis, and simply took them for granted.
Gratitude springs from the awareness that we have been given a gift. Often this awareness comes upon us in sudden and unexpected ways. We are walking along and suddenly our breath is taken away by the beauty of the autumn leaves, or we are talking with a close friend and suddenly we realize what a gift this person has been to us. We’ve been given a gift: something has come to us from outside ourselves – something unexpected and even undeserved – and our lives have been enriched by it. We feel grateful.
This awareness can rise in us suddenly and unexpectedly, but it can also be cultivated. We can develop our awareness, and learn to practice gratitude. Learning to see with eyes of gratitude, becoming more aware of the gifts that surround us on every side, is an ability that needs to be kept alive through constant practice. In the words of Rabbi Abraham Heschel, “The insights of wonder must be constantly kept alive.”