Stop. Look. Go.

Peggy Palmiter
I have come to the conclusion that there are no accidents or coincidences in life.  I believe we are exactly where we are supposed to be doing exactly what we are supposed to do—even if the path is not always totally clear in the moment.  So when I started noticing that gratitude and gratefulness kept coming up a lot in my thinking, in the grace I offered at lunches at Academy, in my meditation, I decided there had to be a reason.

 

There were several seemingly unrelated things that came to mind.  My own battle with shingles and my gratitude that they were waning, if not totally gone.  My gratitude for all of the support from Lifespan participants and their friends and families, both emotionally and financially.  You really have been amazing with your contributions.  The excitement of seeing new people participating in the academy and new courses and presentations coming into the lineup.But this still did not seem to totally explain why gratitude was so present in my heart lately.  Why was it popping up around me.  And why was it creating such feelings of joy? 

All of these questions lead me to the writings of a Benedictine Monk, Br. David Steindle-Rast.  Brother David, through his book and his website, gratefulness.org, identified two important qualities of gratitude.   The first is appreciation—the sense that something has value to us outside of its monetary worth.  But the second quality seemed to define the truth of my experience.  Gratitude truly is “gratis.”  In other words, it is freely given to us without our doing anything to earn it.  As Angeles Arrien says “Gratitude is essentially the recognition of the unearned increments of value in one’s experience.”  In her book Living In Gratitude:  A Journey That Will Change Your Life”  she talks about the International Encyclopedia of Ethics definition of gratitude…”the heart’s internal indicator on which the tally of gifts outweighs exchanges.”

I started to think about the items of value in my life for which I am grateful.  All of you, of course.  My brother’s continued good health.  The opportunity we have to gather and nurture each other, even as some of our family have left us.  Then there are the things that seem obvious, but are easily forgotten.  The song bird, the blue sky, the cool breeze.  Norma’s painting of walking in the rain that I couldn’t resist.

But gratefulness is a choice and it takes practice, as do all things of value.  Brother David provides a set of steps for us to follow if we wish to engage in grateful living.  Stop.  Look.  Go.  Stop and “wake up to the surprises around us.”  I use an app called Headspace for my meditation  (Of course I do, right) And the first step in every session is to stop and listen to all your sense.  Then, you look.  You are aware of your opportunity.  As Br. David describes it the opportunity to enjoy.  Whatever it is, wherever you are, whatever the experience.  Notice, enjoy, acknowledge.  But the last step in  Br. David’s process intrigues me.  Go.  Take advantage of the opportunity.  Go with what you have found and truly experience it.

I know that I am grateful for all of you and the community of Lifespan.  Br. David references an e e cummings poem in the title of one of his books.  I am through you so I.  “This sums up the author’s belief.  I become who I am through you.”  Stop.  Look.  Go.

Fondly,

Peggy Palmiter

 

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