Sample from the Spring 2005 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine
Spreading Gratefulness One Light at a Time
An Interview with Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB
Br. David Steindl-Rast, Benedictine monk, has long been a close friend of Sri Gurudev and the Integral Yoga community. A contemplative, an activist, an interfaith proponent, now Br. David is also the inspiration behind the Web site: www.gratefulness.org. He speaks about how the Internet can be a vehicle for building global community and how one can cultivate an attitude of gratitude even in the face of disaster
Integral Yoga Magazine: You talk about cultivating gratitude as an attitude toward life, but how can we feel gratitude when disaster strikes?
Br. David Steind-Rast, OSB: Br. David Steind-Rast, OSB: The question is: can one be grateful not for a disaster but in connection with it. The answer is: the tsunami awakened the awareness of the need for and the possibility of global community. A relatively short time ago, this possibility was not given because of we did not have the ease of transportation and communication that we have now. So, global community is emerging as a practical reality to be realized. There was always a global community, but not in the same away as there is now and needs to be in the future.
You can’t be grateful for having cancer or that the tsunami happened or that so many are suffering, but you can be grateful that you are there to see it and do something about it. The gift within every gift is opportunity. Even in the things we can be grateful for such as a good friend or taking a nice trip, you can ask yourself, “What is the gift within that gift?” And it is the opportunity to share life with a friend, to celebrate beauty, the opportunity to see other places and meet new people.
IYM: Isn’t it easier to see the gift when “good” things happen?
DS-R: When you train yourself in being alert to opportunity and something like this disaster comes, you immediately will ask yourself, “What is the opportunity now?” And then, gratefully rise to that. That opportunity is to become suddenly aware of global community and to become aware of things you can do to help–directly or indirectly–by strengthening the global community at home in your family and your surroundings.
You can express your gratitude by giving, helping, by doing something. Giving is not an optional element of thanksgiving; it is an essential part. If one is truly grateful, one realizes that and wants to give. Gratefulness makes us realize the abundance that is available in every situation–no matter how poor we are. It’s not always about financial abundance and not always about making financial contributions. We are always immersed in divine abundance and can be channels of that to others. The smile we give to people next door to us, or to the person at the next desk to us, can be a much greater contribution to global community than the $20 we send to an organization.
IYM: How do we foster global community?
DS-R: Anything that fosters community fosters global community. Whether you are strengthening the bonds among your classmates, your coworkers in an office, or even the bonds you establish with the animals–feeding the birds, doing something for an animal shelter or watering your plants, having a garden or insisting on organic produce at your local market–all this contributes to global community.
Global community is not to be restricted to humans. It won’t be community if animals and plants are left out. There are forces, whether you call them angels or whatever, that need to be befriended and taken into this community. Prayer–moving on the level beyond the visible and tangible–can also strengthen bonds of global community…