January 21, 2016
David Steindl-Rast —
Anatomy of Gratitude

Now nearing 90, Brother David Steindl-Rast has lived through a world war, the end of an empire, and the fascist takeover of his country. He's given a TED talk, viewed over five million times, on the subject of gratitude — a practice increasingly interrogated by scientists and physicians as a key to human well-being. He was also an early pioneer, together with Thomas Merton, of dialogue between Christian and Buddhist monastics. In this conversation from our visit to the Gut Aich Priory monastery in St. Gilgen, Austria, he speaks of mysticism as the birthright of every human being, and of the anatomy and practice of gratitude as full-blooded, reality-based, and redeeming.

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is a Benedictine monk, teacher, and author. He is the founder and senior advisor for A Network for Grateful Living.

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I feel like I have listened to many of Krista's interviews. This one, though, seems like a thesis by which we can all live and love together.

I find all of Krista's interviews opens my now 80 year old mind with new ideas.
I loved hearing the latest one from the Brother ( from Austria).
Altho I am fast-attached to the Judaism of my youth and old age I am always learning from both Jewish and non-Jewish sources
and Krista helps me along

I briefly met Brother David at a western Buddhist monastery where - oddly enough - a Jewish contemplative retreat was being held. It was the former Abbot of the Buddhist community who introduced us.

At around 27:30, Brother David states that monasticism is at the very heart of the tradition of all religions, because the core of every religion is the religion of the heart, and that is the monastic life.

He's not quite correct, for it's not that way in Judaism. The heart of Judaism is life in the common world. There are no Jewish monasteries for that very reason. Jews bring God into this world, rather than escaping this world into a life apart.

From the Jewish perspective, on its own the heart is inadequate to experience and express God. Ideally, it takes action, speech/emotion, and thought, all in accordance with God's will.

I wondered about the reason for that.

Although Judaism has no monasteries, in the Orthdox Jewish world, the very strict Jews, are in their own world because most Jews are secular today. The orthodox dress and act in the same way they did centuries ago. Before the enlightenment, most Jews were fairly strict in their religiosity. Sfardim and Ashkenazim were different, but still close in many ways. So, to me, extremely Orthodox Jews are in a way in their own world in the same way monastic Christians are.

This is not right.

Jewish Orthodox groups spans the range from Open Orthodoxy, through Modern Orthodoxy, through Yeshivishe in the US, to a whole range of Chassidic groups, the Chareidi groups in Israel, and even more extreme right wing groups.

In the US, Orthodox Jews are roughly 10% of the total Jewish population, and that number is growing very quickly due to their emphasis on having large families, and attrition of the less religious Jewish denominations.

I'm Modern Orthodox and we are very involved with the larger world. We don't dress in any special ways, other than trying to dress modestly. We are not in any way monastic.

And all Jews hold marriage, family and involvement with community as very high priorities. Again, not monastic.

I am not speaking of modern Orthodox. I am speaking of those who very strict, as I said. By definition that is not modern Orthodox. I related to monastic in the sense that the very strict often feel disdain for those not as strict. They believe, and I have seen this, that only if the others followed their values, they would be all right. It is this narrow world view that I compared to monasticism. You say that all Jews hold involvement with the community as a very high priority. Are you speaking of their coreligionist Orthodox or the broader community? In parts of Brooklyn and Jerusalem many of these Orthodox keep to themselves, and in Jerusalem there are those who oppose the State of Israel 's existence, the same Israel that keeps them safe and alive. How does equate to involvment with any community except their own.

Thsi was one of the most beautofiful episodes I've listened to.

Some time ago, a friend told this about gratitude:

"You just stepped in a pile of dog poop. It's messy, gross and when you try to clean it up, it just gets messier and more gross. Without gratitide, all you see is the pile you just stepped in. If you have gratitide, even just a little bit, you just might see that you stepped in poop, which is on a sidewalk, maybe in Paris, which is a city world famous for Parisans not picking up their dog's poop, and maybe you're walking to see a friend in a cafe in the shadow the Eiffel Tower. "

"Gratitude doesn't ignore the dog poop on the sidewalk or other difficult parts of our lives, it just makes them seem smaller and more manageable and that if we look up and out we can see some beautiful stuff even while we clean off our shoe."

Brother Steindl-Rast is right on target. Too many of us spend far too much of our time bemoaning the things we lack rather than being grateful for all the blessings we have. I think this is a spiritual disease of the developed world; we have so much given to us and yet we always want more.

I think Louis C K had a great point when he said something about people complaining about the inconveniences in an airplane trip rather than thinking to themselves--"I'm flying through the air at hundreds of miles an hour like a god. What a miraculous thing". (I'm pretty heavily paraphrasing his thought but I hope I've gotten the essence of it).

i love how you find wisdom in both louis c k and brother david.

Thank you.

Those who've allowed themselves to feel into it know the mystical experience is absolutely natural and a birthright for each of us. So why do so many fear it?

"This is the day the Lord has made..." How important context can be! In Jewish liturgy, this verse is most often encountered in Hallel, a prayer recited on holidays, so I always understood the verse to refer to special days. Only listening to this discussion did I realize for the first time that every day is "the day the Lord has made." Thank you for bringing us diverse voices.

What a joy to hear Brother David again with his thick, rooted, warm voice. I loved his conclusion on the courage of letting go through sitting still... and the prayer that came to my mind at that moment was Ash Wednesday's "Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still."
Thank you so much! On-Being is truly a gem.

Like Sesu, I just want to say how 'grateful' I am for today's podcast. I can't tell you how much you, Krista, have enriched my spiritual journey. Finding your podcast (AND all the wonderful past archives from "Speaking of Faith" and "On Being") has been a God-send.

Hello. I am surprised to hear, that we can´t be grateful for everything. It´s easy, to be grateful, for things we like. But where we grow is, when we are able to be grateful, for things we DON´T like. Sometimes it can sound even impossible. As very good example I see, the ilness. Because I do belive, that we create all kinds of sicknesses from the way we live. And most of all, from the way, we think about ourselves. And our body, beeing wise, is letting us know, the disbalance.
By thanking for something, what is highly painful for me, I am willing to understand, that there is something greater above me.
There is a book written by Merlin Carrother "Power in praise". I think, that Merlin, hit the nail. :)

In that case, I am not sure if I am grateful for the sickness itself, or the opportunity to grow that may come with it.

Just so wonderful to hear this and every show. Such peace, such power, such contemplation! Always a joy to hear Krista's soothing voice and gently brilliant style. So welcoming, so inviting, so enlightening. This is what I am most grateful for this morning.

Brother David exemplifies the centuries long tradition of monks both Benedictine and others that despite their seeming isolated life they care deeply about our planet and it's residents (both human and non-human). Their isolation allows them to use their intelligence to learn about and understand many different areas of study. The example that monks set for the rest of us is worth at least trying to understand how each of us can personally benefit by putting down the technology of the day for some alone time to listen for personal wisdom and peace to grow in us. I am grateful for the education I got at a Benedictine monastery and the challenges presented to me, an adolescent, to grow in many different ways.

Life is good, I feel grateful for everything that has come in moments. I am whole and complete in myself.

As Jew who adheres to the gift of Judaism I found this latest talk by the Brother to be illuminating and hope to be in the momdnt

In my life experience I concur that the daily practice of gratitude is essential to one's well-being. The flip side of that coin is the daily practice of compassion.

Krista your program is fresh air to an often stale beaten up world. Brother David's interview was brilliant. I loved his analogy of the volcano that has lost its fire as what religion can become if we don't keep the fire going and I was most impressed that he mentioned St Charbel ( a monk from my homeland) who through his monastic life has spread the radical love of God to countless people.
His definition of joy as happiness that does not depend on what happens and his solid encouragement to all of us to seek the mystical life as our birth right made this talk so special for me.

Brother David distills the essence of Gratitude with the connection to Maya Angelou's quote
"This is a wonderful day, and I have never seen this one before." I appreciated his closing remarks sharing what he is most thankful for in this moment right in the here and now is his breathe.

Embrace what is here, and right now. This is the gift of life.

I agree with Anne in his quote and comment on the "wonderful day.. never before seen" taken, and elaborated on. I've been thinking a lot recently on the comments on NPR that the current alignment of planets (until February 20th) could not have happened - if our solar system (and entire universe?) were not on the same plane. That ties our particular "rock" into all of those others since the beginning, and will continue, forever. That might cause anxiety or awe, but not fear. It brings to my mind a beautiful poem by William Blake:
"To see the world in a grain of sand,
And heaven in a wildflower.
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
and eternity in an hour."

That hour might be all we have to contemplate in gratitude, but we are all very much connected to everything and everyone else in, at least, our universe.

I listen to On Being early Sunday mornings alone in my kitchen. The conversation On Gratitude was another gift to me. There is much wisdom in looking beyond the cancer diagnosis, the betrayal, the damage of any sort to see that while I am not grateful for the disease or the catastrophe, I am grateful for the present moment when I see myself and the world around me.

Gratitude is the soul of humility.

A few years ago, I happened upon a TED presentation by Louie Schwartzberg titled "Gratitude." Schwartzberg presented his video on stage, and in the video was a narration by an old man who spoke eloquently of being grateful for this one day—today. I was so immensely moved by those words that I shared the video with many of my friends. (You can search for "Schwartzberg Gratitude" on YouTube for the video.)

When I listened to this On Being episode, I immediately recognized that voice! I didn't remember the narrator's name from Schwartzberg's video, nor did I pay attention to it at the time, but I knew that voice like an old friend who made a profound impression on my life.

Thank you for this episode. Thank you for reuniting me with the friendly voice. And thank you for allowing me to recognize Brother Steindl-Rast as the sage behind that wonderful voice.

Every episode seems to be exactly what I need to hear at the time, and I don't take this for granted. I am so glad I found this podcast, I haven't stopped listening and telling people about it every chance I get in the last 2 weeks. Every episode opens a new part of my brain and heart.
Thank you so much, Krista.

This is a really wonderful interview that I have listened to many times and linked to from my blog. I always find it renews me in some way. I've undertaken (as often as I can and when I remember) to stop to behold the wonders that are around me, to try and hold those wonders in my heart. Thank you very much.