The 5th century monk and mystic Benedict of Nursia counsels in his Rule for monastic life an attitude of contentment among his community. Whatever the circumstances they find themselves in, they are to find some satisfaction with what is in the moment. In a world of self-entitlement and inflated sense of need, learning to be content with what we have has the potential to be quite revolutionary. It means craving less and being more satisfied with what one has.
One way to encourage this posture of contentment in our lives is gratitude. Gratitude is a way of being in the world that does not assume we are owed anything, and the fact that we have something at all, whether our lives, our breath, families, friends, shelter, laughter, or other simple pleasures, are all causes for celebration. We can cultivate a way of being in the world that treats all these things as gifts, knowing none of us “deserves” particular graces.
Gratitude has a way of transforming our approach to life into one that is more open-hearted, generous, and joyful. Rather than moving through our day feeling cynical or burdened, we can consciously choose our thoughts. This doesn’t mean that we have to offer gratitude for injustices or abuse, we are always called to resist those. But it does mean we might be able to tap into greater joy to replenish us for those moments when we do need to fight for dignity and kindness. Gratitude overflows into joy and makes us feel connected to something bigger than ourselves.
~Christine Valters Paintner
from this distance I cannot see…..I must lean in to the crevices of my life to taste gratitude….
inquiry for today~ when you feel a turning point, may you lean in, too……
I read a passage from The Thirteen Petalled Rose,” the rabbi’s “discourse on the essence of Jewish existence and belief.” The excerpt is about teshuva, a “return,” a turning about, or “turning to.”
“It is the self-obliterating view of oneself that provides the true basis of all existence, that makes possible a firm grasp of the truth of reality. For then the circumscribing immensities of existence take shape in one’s understanding, and it becomes apparent that one is a part of them.
“One becomes conscious of a vast arc, curving from the divine source to oneself, which corresponds to the question: Where do I come from? While at the same time a line curving from oneself to Him corresponds to the question, Where am I going?”
The Indo-European root of the word hope comes from the stem “k-e-u,” the same root for the word “curve,” a movement in a different direction, a bend without angles, a capacity the Vasa lacked.
Rabbi Steinsaltz writes of teshuvah as meaning “repentance,” from the root meaning “to turn.” He explains that teshuvah denotes a turning about, a response, a curve, an arc, as shown in the following passages from his book Teshuvah.
Teshuvah is a world unto itself, embracing two apparent opposites, not contradictory but complementary.
In one respect, there is nothing more difficult than doing teshuvah, because teshuvah means transforming oneself. In another respect, there is nothing easier than teshuvah; a split second of turning is already considered teshuvah.
The ba’al teshuvah (penitent) is thus like a person following a certain course who in an instant decides to change direction. From that point onward, he no longer goes the old way, but a different way. Yet the new path, like the old one, is long and unending.
~Kenneth Krushel (with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz)