One practice that I use sometimes – say, in my dentist’s waiting-room – I call The ABCs of Grateful Living: I go through the alphabet and note for each letter the first word that comes to my mind. Then, I try to make a connection between that word and my practice of grateful living. It’s a kind of game I play with myself…

I mean that vibrant sense of wonder that triggers gratefulness. Mary Oliver expressed it so well:
“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”

Not prettiness, but beauty as of a thunderstorm gripping my heart with a sense of mystery – this is the deepest root of gratefulness.

Shiny red, big, and plump cherries, or even the tiny wild ones, so sweet on my tongue, are for me, as long as I can remember, an image of all that nature’s abundance bestows and our heart leaps to receive with gratitude.

Living and dying belong together. Learning to live is learning to die. By learning to live gratefully, we learn to die peacefully.

What a gift is this planet of ours! Gary Snyder speaks of it as the Earth Household. Earthworms, sunflowers, humans, lions, supernovas — all members of this household are gifts to one another. Gratitude of each to each – simply for being there – holds everything together.

Or should I have said Fireworks? I’m thrilled by both. Once on a 4th of July I heard the sound of fireworks and went out to see them. But a hill blocked my view. Instead, I noticed thousands of fireflies in the meadow around me. Aren’t surprise and gratitude almost synonyms?

There are three levels of giving: Giving away makes you free. Giving thanks makes you joyful. Forgiving, the most intense level of giving, makes you fully human.

Among all the wonderful things that human hands can do, giving gifts is the noblest activity. But, as an African proverb says: “It is the heart that gives, the hands merely let go.”

I – I AM
I have not brought about, or bought, or made myself. From the start I discover myself as a given – one big gift given to myself. What else should I make of my life but one big thanksgiving?

Life is a journey. Grateful living turns life into a pilgrimage. The success of a journey depends on reaching the goal. But on a pilgrimage every step is the goal.

Gratitude makes us want to kneel from sheer delight. Again, Mary Oliver puts it perfectly in The Summer Day:
“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,
how to fall down into the grass,
how to kneel down in the grass…”

The more we become aware that every moment of life is a leave-taking, the more we learn to appreciate life gratefully.

We cannot grasp music intellectually; yet, we can understand music, if it, in turn, “grabs” us. Likewise the Great Mystery that some call God: We cannot wrap our mind around it, but we can gratefully allow it to embrace us – and thus understand.

The greatest gift of all is the present moment. All spiritual practices lead to living gratefully in the Now.

The gift within every gift is opportunity. We cannot be grateful for everything. But we can be grateful every moment for the opportunities it gives us – if not to enjoy, then to learn, to grow, to serve.

Potholes in the road give us the opportunity to slow down. That’s a great gift.

I’m grateful for questions, especially unanswered ones; they keep me alert.

Makes plants grow; gratitude makes human relationships grow.

Grateful people live simply – so that others may simply live.

Life inevitably brings anxieties. If we resist anxiety because of fear – a lack of trust – we get stuck. Trust in life lets us move through the narrow passage of anxiety into a new birth.

Evening rain tapping on my yellow umbrella: The “little” gifts of life, how big they are!

Yes, I know, voting is made difficult for the poor and the system is riddled with injustice. All the more, I stop and look for the opportunity to promote justice, and go voting.

Sharing all knowledge for free! Do we support this project as it deserves? We can transform giving money as payment into giving money as thanks.

X – Gratitude is an “x”
A multiplication sign: It multiplies our joy as many times as we “stop, look, and go!”

We can learn to say “you” gratefully. Without you, the very word “I” would make no sense. In a love poem e.e. cummings says: “i am through you so I.“

Z – ZAP! You are it!
Now it’s your turn to play this ABC Gratefulness Game…


This practice is from Br. David’s introduction to Stop-Look-Go: A Grateful Practice Workbook and Gratitude Journal. Experience the joy of grateful living through practical instructions, exercises and essays. Using the STOP, LOOK, GO technique gratefully borrowed from Br. David Steindl-Rast, the book offers 32 exercises adapted from A Network for Grateful Living and The Greater Good Science Center that explore all aspects of grateful living. You can purchase Stop-Look-Go: A Grateful Practice Workbook and Gratitude Journal at Amazon. Br. David says: “My heart overflows with gratitude to my dear friends, Candice Fuhrman, Karie Jacobson, and Gary Fiedel for their nine-month labor that gave birth to this promising baby. It takes practice to achieve gratefulness…”

Br. David Steindl-Rast
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Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

About the author

Brother David Steindl-Rast — author, scholar, and Benedictine monk — is beloved the world over for his enduring message about gratefulness as the true source of lasting happiness. Known to many as the “grandfather of gratitude,” Br. David has been a source of inspiration and spiritual friendship to countless leaders and luminaries around the world including Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Thomas Merton, and more. He has been one of the most important figures in the modern interfaith dialogue movement, and has taught with thought-leaders such as Eckhart Tolle, Jack Kornfield, and Roshi Joan Halifax. His wisdom has been featured in recent interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Krista Tippett, and Tami Simon and his TED talk has been viewed almost 10,000,000 times. Learn more about Br. David here.