How are you faring with the weekly gratitude challenges? This week, I challenge you to post stop signs throughout your life and use a few minutes to be grateful for things you usually take for granted.
We have become chasers of possessions, wealth, jobs, people or even philosophies to find happiness. Sadly, many of us have the process of reaching happiness back-to-front. I bet you know someone who has everything they dreamed of, yet they are still not quite happy. Why? Essentially, they always want more of what they already have; something else or someone else.
In contrast, how many people do you know who are deeply happy despite many misfortunes and hardships? Sometimes, we could not even imagine how we would deal with similar adversities.
Spiritual lesson about stop — look — go
David Steindl-Rast, the spiritual teacher and Benedictine monk, says we mistake the issue. Happiness doesn’t bring gratitude. Instead, it is gratefulness that brings happiness. You see, those who face many hardships and still find things to bring gratefulness enjoy true happiness.
The monk compares gratefulness to crossing a street. As children, we learn to stop, look and then cross the street. To recognize small things that deserve our gratitude, he suggests we put stop signs in our daily lives.
Br. Steindl-Rast used his trip to Africa as an example to explain the need to put stop signs for gratitude in his life. While in a remote part of Africa, he had no electricity nor access to drinkable water, which had to be carried over long distances from rivers to their villages. Upon his return, he was overwhelmed with gratitude every time he opened a tap. Similarly, he experienced the same gratefulness whenever he flipped the light switch. The happiness he felt was indescribable.
Do we have time to be grateful?
The spiritual teacher admits that the gradual move back into his busy life after the trip pushed the gratefulness to the back burner. He no longer stopped and looked. Instead, he sort of slowed down like we do when we yield for other traffic and then he moved on. However, when he became quiet with his own thoughts, he reminisced about his trip. He made a decision to put little post-it stickers on the faucets and light switches. When the gratitude flowed without these reminders, he removed the post-its and saved them for when he needed to put up stop signs next.
Here’s your stop — look — go challenge for this week
Use Br. Steindl-Rast’s example to post stop signs as reminders to be grateful. However, you can also use your imagination. Stop what you’re doing and take a few minutes to sit back and look through the photos of week 1 of the challenge 1. Use quiet moments to be reminded of the small things in your life. Most importantly, let the gratefulness flow over you. How about your daily commutes? Slowdown, stop to take in exciting or beautiful sights or scenery.
If your life is too demanding to stop, put a reminder on your phone. Let the buzz remind you to stop — look — go. Then, be off to your own, personal deep happiness that follows gratitude. Don’t forget to check back next week for a challenge to show gratitude to a loved one.