Awake, Aware, and Alert

Three steps in the process of living a life of gratefulness.

Q:

Are there "steps" in the practice of gratitude?



A:

An act of gratitude is a living whole. To superimpose on its organic flow a mental grid like a series of "steps" will always be somewhat arbitrary. And yet, for the sake of practice, such a delineation can be helpful.



In any process, we can distinguish a beginning, a middle, and an end. We may use this basic three-step grid for the practice of gratitude: What happens at the start, in the middle, and at the end, when we experience gratitude? What fails to happen when we are not grateful?



Before going to bed, I glance back over the day and ask myself: Did I stop and allow myself to be surprised? Or, did I trudge on in a daze?

To be awake, aware, and alert are the beginning, middle, and end of gratitude. This gives us the clue to what the three basic steps of practicing gratitude must be.



Step One: Wake Up

To begin with, we never start to be grateful unless we wake up. Wake up to what? To surprise. As long as nothing surprises us, we walk through life in a daze. We need to practice waking up to surprise. I suggest using this simple question as a kind of alarm clock: "Isn't this surprising?" "Yes, indeed!" will be the correct answer, no matter when and where and under what circumstances you ask this question. After all, isn't it surprising that there is anything at all, rather than nothing? Ask yourself at least twice a day, "Isn't this surprising?" and you will soon be more awake to the surprising world in which we live.

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Brother David Steidl-Rast
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