just be it It’s about the work involved in establishing a dedicated practice to feelings of a bigger belonging through practices aimed at increasing feelings of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness

Gratitude Practice

Grateful...Just Be It...the feeling.

Grateful...Just Be It...the feeling.

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Happiness is a necessary consequence to gratitude.  Yet, we seldom, if ever, find gratitude practice in a school curriculum.  Many school administrators claim this area of training is for the church or family.  Yet, it’s perhaps the most important skill, next to listening, for success.  Ancient spiritual wisdom across traditions directs us to find gratitude for what “is”.

We’re frequently told to make space to find the gift in the given.  Michael Beckwith has said we must give thanks for what is so we can make space for new opportunities to come in.  The expression of gratitude through “thank you” is not the etiquette function we’re accustomed to.  It’s not about just expressing gratitude for another’s gift to us.  It’s about the ‘felt’ sense of fullness for the ‘opportunity’.  Brother David Steindl Rast has described it as joy for the ‘opportunity to participate’. To experience our core Being, we have to participate with our whole being.  Paul Tillich attributes this full participation as the key to faith, courage, and knowledge in life.  Essentially, the practice of gratitude is forever carrying joy for the freedom to be engaged in the gift of the moment.  In gratitude, we take nothing for granted.  It’s gratitude that is the source of our courage to face the challenges of the world.
Group and individual skill training is offered in gratitude practice. Additionally, Just Be It is seeking partners in research of the pragmatic function that has too long been neglected.

From his book Gratefulness, Brother David has written:

Even the predictable turns into surprise the moment we stop taking it for granted.  P. 9

Gratefulness is the measure of our aliveness. To live life open for surprise, in spite of all the dying which living implies, makes us ever more alive.  P. 12

We cannot be mindful without being grateful.  As soon as we awake from taking everything for granted, there is at least a glimmer of surprise and a beginning of gratitude. P. 47

Check the calendar for workshop dates and events.

From Just Be it
pp. 160-177

A Lesson in Gratitude, Happiness and Healing (as spoken to an elementary school class)

Who here has ever been hurt? Did you cry? Do remember how you got better? What happened? Did you see how you felt better when you or someone else sent your hurt some love? Did you see how it felt worse when you sent anger to what you hurt?

Let’s pretend we stubbed our little toe on a door. At first we may cry when our toe sends an ouch message to the brain. And if our brain keeps thinking about it, did you know that the ouch just gets bigger? Who of you wants the pain to get stronger? No one? So let’s learn a way that will always get us back to feeling happy. How many of you want to get back to feeling happy after getting hurt? There’s a magic word that will help you. This special word is thank you.

We can look at what’s broken and give it love or anger. If we look at it with love, we’re saying thank you for how it worked before it was broken. If we look at it with anger, we’re mad because it’s not working like we want it to. Some people only look for what’s not working. Do you think they’re happy? Probably not, unless they’re looking at it with love and care, just like a doctor may look at your hurting toe. The best way to start feeling happy is to say “Thank you, toe. Thank you for sending that message to my brain. Thank you for helping me walk today. Toe, I love you and think you’re great for helping me stand and walk.” When you do this, you’ll see that all of a sudden, Toe is feeling better and so are you. If it still hurts, move around your body and say thank you for all that’s still working. Look at your other little toe. Say, “Thank you, toe. I love you and know you help me walk, stand, run and are very dear to me.” Move your thoughts to your little finger. Say, “Thank you little finger. It’s so amazing that you can move up and down when my brain says to. You’re always there when I catch the ball, eat my food and so many other things. Thank you for working so well.” Your body likes to hear you give attention to it. It’s a very good friend and wants to serve you well. It wants you to always see what’s working. Breathe in and say, “Thank you lungs, for taking in air and feeding oxygen to my blood. Thank you heart, for sending fresh blood all around in my body.” When you do this, all of a sudden, you’re not thinking about your stubbed toe. All of a sudden you realize your toe doesn’t hurt as much, and you’re feeling so happy for all that’s still working.

So who wants to be happy as much as you can be? Do you know Abraham Lincoln? He said, “You can be as happy as you make your mind up to be.” Who remembers the magic word for making happiness? Yes, it’s thank you. So if something’s not working, will it get better if you get mad about it or if you send it love? What works better, saying thank you for all that’s working or being mad about everything that’s not working?

Here’s something you can do every morning when you get up from your bed. It will help you feel happy. Just wiggle a little toe and say, “Thank you, toe, for moving when I ask you to.” Open and close your eyes and say, “Thank you eyes, for opening and closing when I want you to.” They like this, and each time you do it, they feel so happy. Some mornings do it with your hands, sometimes with your legs, sometimes thank your nose for still smelling. There are so many parts of your body to say thank you for…so many things that are working so well. And guess what, when you think about them you don’t even think about what may be hurt or the ouch of your little toe. Sometimes you can even wake up and say, “Thank you. It’s such a great not stubbing my toe day.” And you know what? This even makes you feel happy.

So what are the magic words, thank you toe or I hate you toe? That’s right, thank you is magic and it helps you feel better. It also helps other people feel better when you thank them for what’s working. It just works to look for what’s working and say thank you. And if you must look at what’s not working, send it love from your heart. Soon it will feel better knowing that you’re thankful for all it gave you before it broke. So many times, this is enough to get it working again.

Outside the confines of my body…just be it.

Standing Outside Myself I “See” Where I “Must” Go

The famous Sufi, Rumi, wrote about how important it was to follow the heart’s way rather than the way fear would have us go. Interestingly the way of the heart is much more difficult than the way of fear. It commands action in contribution through our unique gifts and talents. It means staying true to that which we know must be done, even when those around us laugh at our efforts. Tremendous freedom is gained when we surrender our pursuit of happiness through seeking others’ approval to seeking our approval of heart’s pull. Standing tall in the “I” that remains after we die, we can see the power in our unique contribution while inhabiting this body and this body finds its ‘original smile’.

So where do we find happiness? How is it so many move through life so unhappy? How can we teach our children the secrets to happiness? Why are we continually caught in the false notion that happiness can come through accumulation and consumption, through dying to our work in retirement, through taking a just do me vacation to Disneyland or Las Vegas? Why do we ignore the simple answers to finding happiness? It’s so simple, yet one of life’s most complex applications.

It seems that when we offer these simple insights to happiness, most meet this ancient wisdom with disappointment. Yet, successful, happy living will always be found through our disciplined sacred intention to contribute in the healing of the universe, through our expression of gratitude for gifts given and through our commitment to standing tall in life affirmation. Simply put, happiness is found through a perceptual focus on “yes” with each inhalation and “thank you” with each exhalation. Within this body, the only thing we really need is breath. As long as we have it, we can find happiness through expression of gratitude for it.

Our willingness to see the abundance and to recognize our opportunity for perceptual shifts to the mystery of life leaves us forever in awe at the miracle. This leads us to never-ending happiness through our continuous flow of gratitude. Today, traveling this life gate transformation, may we scream in joy for the blessings received and the perfect intelligence of the universe.

Our Peace Commands Our Expression of ‘Thank You’ From Our Gratitude

Brother David Steindl-Rast says a working definition of love is “the yes to belonging with the whole of being”. He believes we can’t have gratefulness without acknowledgement of our belonging; to really come alive is an experience of interdependence. This seems to be why happiness has been related to cognitive expression of gratitude within the thank you response. There’s something that enhances our belonging when we move from the feeling of gratitude to the expression of thanks. This enhancement of belonging appears to be a great source of happiness.


May all creatures find peace in everything, in complete belonging through expression of our gratitude in the thank you response. As life’s opportunity is forever gifted in the manifest, may our hearts necessarily pull us to thankfulness in what Brother David refers to as “a circle dance of gratefulness”.

Finding the Gift in the Given

Some amazing things happen when we have enough trust to receive all moments as gift. In the face of hopes gone down the drain and expectations not met, can we still face the mystery in wonder and appreciation? When we recognize the all as gift, our only appropriate response to any life event within this moment is that of gratefulness. Brother David says, “The Source continually gives itself into the manifest and then we give this back in thankfulness…it’s a circle dance of gratefulness”.

Within our acknowledgement of gratefulness through “thank you”, we find peace. Forgiveness is our release of disappointment for events and moments that fell short of our fantasy or expectation. As we release attachment to thoughts of what we think should have been, as we return to the moment in strong affirmation, we find our healing. We give thanks for insights gained through life’s greatest pains and suffering. We meet the mystery in the moment filled with gratitude and consequent peace and happiness.

It’s Our Job to Say Yes to Life

We can watch the animals and plants in nature and see how they say, “Yes”, to each moment. As babies, they are carefully trained in what to pay attention to for survival. We often mistake their keen attention for fear, yet we suspect they have no concept of time, necessarily living in the moment. It’s like we’re continually being shown through Spirit what “works” and what “doesn’t work”. So why do we as humans continue to act in ways that don’t work?

It seems as though we’ve almost come to accept a “not okay” universe by surrounding ourselves with those who may be filled with fear, regret and dissatisfaction with the way it is. Yet, we know it works to still see the gift in those events that cause us the most suffering. We know it works to see grace given through the intelligence of the universe. We know it works to be filled with wonder and awe in our belonging, beyond notions of separation, judgment and comparison. We’ve seen this naturally happen in cultures living outside the influence of power struggles and competition and we now see how crucial it is to find our connectedness and gratitude for this gift of life.


May the hearts of all parents fill with the intention to teach our children. May we teach the strength in affirming this gift of life with each breath in and teach our children to find full gratitude with the miracle of each breath out. May we all meet our heart’s desire by working to find gratitude and peace for the opportunities that arise in easy and difficult times. Within this space, may all creatures find purpose and contribution to the healing of the universe.

Teaching Our Children to Say Yes to the Mystery

At a very early age, we can teach our children the value in an affirming attitude as they return to consciousness from sleep. As the child awakes, while still at an early age and filled with wonder, we can engage them in the joy for the gift of bodily movement, shifting focus to various body parts they find they can control. We can help them shift perception to various capabilities of the senses. In effect, our capacity to teach our children the affirming morning response, filled with gratitude and wonder for their very presence, can play a huge role in their life happiness.

We’re teaching them to give thanks for what’s working within this given precious moment, even when in the face of that which is not working. In effect, we’re working with our children to increase their awareness rather than deaden it. Obviously we can’t pretend that we’re awake in appreciation to the mystery. Teaching our children necessarily commands us to effortlessly be in that space of wonder, presence, affirmation and gratitude. This is the richest form of love we can give anyone, our complete attention and presence filled with gratefulness for their ‘being’ beyond notions of separation from us.

Breathing in Yes to Face the Moment; Breathing Out Thank You for the Gift of Opportunity”.

Breathing in we can wake to life in full affirmation. This is where we face the moment in wonder for the gift of opportunity. Within this gift comes our opportunity to share. Upon touching the heart, we are pulled to share our wealth, not from some sense of duty, need for approval, or guilt. It simply happens from carefully listening to our yes to life. Amazingly we learn to find the gift of opportunity especially in troubled times. We surrender ego’s tendency to think we can fix things. We come into the peace and understanding of receiving the intelligence of the universe just as it is. As we touch our heart, so do we touch those hearts around us. We find our connection at last, when we come to see that it’s not just about us. The fabric of our consciousness is threaded into the finest of cloths as we discover our full smile for the gift of opportunity.


May we forever be filled from this gift of opportunity. As we polish the heart, we come to know our happiness…that beautiful place where our doing meets our being, that place where fear and pride vanish as we come to touch one another beyond notions of separation.

Weather and Pests

A lot has been written about attitude. We can see how our mental attitude affects our physiology, how it contributes to our healing and ultimately to our sense of health and well-being. Carolyn Myss has written about the negative impact of the language of ‘woundology’, where we get caught in focusing on what’s not working with our bodies. There’s the paradox about social acceptance of discussion of our pains and injuries mixed with our inherent discomfort in listening to another’s feared concerns.

It seems that those things that are uncomfortable for us, those things that test our threshold of whining, are what build character. In Minnesota there seems to be an overwhelming focus on what’s not right about the weather or what’s not right with the insects. Just as it seems people don’t want to hear us complain about what’s not working with the body, it seems best to not whine about the weather and the bugs. Healthy living and relationships seem to best function within the realm of gratitude for the very gift and opportunity to exist. Within this awareness comes our capacity to forever say yes to the moment, to discipline ourselves to say thank you, and to experience consequent happiness.

Teaching Our Children for Peace and Sense of ‘Well Being” in a World Bent on Violence and Anxiety

How is it that we lose that sense of wonder? The infant’s face is filled with awe at the mystery of life and the discovery of the universe. Yet, at some point it’s as if we’re pre-wired to attach to an experience of either pleasure or pain. From the very first development of cognition, as the child comes to the cognitive stage of object permanence, it’s as if we bring our children along the road of dissatisfaction. Parents and educators place great emphasis on training children in the ways of manipulating the environment through requesting skills. Inherent in requesting behavior is the notion that something is not right or missing. Actually, much of our learning is based on notions of getting somewhere that’s better than where we are. Much of our motivation to learn and work is motivated from fear of losing what we have. Yet, the richest contributions to humanity have come through creative efforts where the individual has maintained a sense of wonder in the creative process, forever filled with gratitude for the gift of opportunity to just be.

Who does not want their children to be at peace? Who doesn’t want their children to be filled with happiness and a solid sense of well-being? So why do we work so hard to train them in dissatisfaction? Why do we continually expose them to fear for what’s not working and notions of hope or luck from some outside source that can control their future sense of pleasure or pain? Isn’t our primary goal to contribute to the healing of the universe as we bring our children once again to a sense of wonder in creative response to the gift of opportunity? Isn’t our educational duty to cherish that sense of mystery and wonder throughout the child’s education? In short, wouldn’t the more effective teacher continually challenge students to go deeper in the question rather than memorizing static answers?

It seems our largest imperative in teaching is to forever bring to awareness the beauty of the moment and the divine intelligence of the universe as we come to full acceptance for what is. As we teach our children to touch the divine through the heart, they will find their creative contribution and connection, forever in gratitude for all that is working, even through the most difficult of life circumstance. This is where they find peace and well-being in a world that seems focused on violence and anxiety.

Life’s Greatest Healer…Gratitude

Across cultures, from the most ancient wisdom, comes the knowledge that our greatest healing arrives through gratitude. Within the space of our gratitude for the very gift of this moment, we move outside notions of victim, need and the very separations of life that have caused our pain and suffering. Many cultures have attributed healthy living and success to our capacity for setting sacred intentions, experiencing and expressing gratitude and making life affirmations through the day. To the extent we can move into this space, we discover our healing. At this moment we surrender all notions of victimization, judgment, criticism and fear. Enveloped in love and faith, we come to the deeper understanding of our belonging and response-ability to participate in the evolution of the very healing process.

Gratitude, Key to Happiness within the Art of Presence

There’s something about gratitude that necessarily puts us within the experience of this present moment. One of the key elements to healing for those grieving the loss of a loved one is their ability to give thanks for the time they had with this person. While the recollection of past experience may result in separation from the present moment, at that point in consciousness where we give thanks, there’s simply no way to be out of presence.

When engaged in a sport activity, the action of giving thanks for the moment assists our connection with the elements and the style of action. We may frequently find ourselves caught in comparison, attached to thoughts of previous experiences. Yet, when we do arrive into the gratitude response there’s a connection with the moment’s unfolding, outside of thought, where happiness fills the heart.


Holy Spirit, this gift of the moment is so precious. May all creatures come to celebrate this gift, moment by moment…breath by breath, facing the wave of all living circumstance.

Paradise…A State of Consciousness

We can travel the world looking for the perfect place, that space beyond fear, anger and sadness. Yet, wherever we land we can find people filled with the complexities of these emotions and thoughts. So where do we find true peace and happiness? It seems the recipe is found in the mix of a consciousness filled with a sense of enough-ness and gratitude. When we can lift our awareness from a sense of lack-ness to one of enough-ness, we move to a higher state of consciousness that expands opportunity. This sense of gratitude in enough-ness motivates us to action in respect to the awe of this gift we call life. There’s nothing stagnant about enough-ness. It’s vibrant, filled with color and has a deep sense of being that moves far beyond our notions of limitation.

So can we help our children find paradise? It certainly doesn’t seem to be a state of mind for which we’re pre-wired. It needs to be taught, carefully bringing the child to awareness of the peace and happiness found in each experience of gratitude. This is particularly difficult in our consumptive society where our children are continually being sold on products that will fill their lack-ness. Bombarded by commercials throughout the day, they’re told that they’ll be happier with a particular product. Worse yet, they’re told they can’t be happy without this product and the process of wanting is fed. Suffering grows and temporary happiness is found when the product is purchased and the wanting stops. Yet seldom does the consumption of the product produce paradise…a true and lasting peace and happiness. Rather, the addiction to wanting grows and we forever try to feed an insatiable appetite when all we need to do is cultivate our consciousness of enough-ness and appreciation.

The Art of Teaching Happiness Through Gratitude and Life Affirmation

As parents and teachers we’ve been entrusted with the sacred task of teaching our children how to be happy. In a world filled with increasing messages of fear and separation, this can be difficult. We want our children to maintain their innocence and sense of wonder, yet we don’t want them to willingly get into a stranger’s car. We want them to appreciate the beauty of nature, in awe at all of life’s daily miracles, yet we don’t want them exploring without our protective eye on them. No doubt, this is a delicate balance, this teaching of wonder and of protective instinct. We’ve witnessed an overload emphasis upon the teaching of fear over the past years. We seem to allow our children to watch excessive violence in the news, TV shows, computer games and movies. We let them listen to violence and anger in their music. We coach them on the importance of staying away from strangers and places where they may encounter strangers. We train the virtue of survival and defense. Yet we seem to have lost a focus on teaching happiness through gratitude.

Have you ever noticed the decreased expression of wonder on the faces of children as they advance their years of education. The preschoolers and kindergarten children generally present faces filled with smiles, happiness and a sense of life appreciation for the unfolding moments of the day. The ones that do not have often been put into a passive life experience by parents using the TV as a main stimulant. Parents can be coached back to linguistic stimulation with their children by teaching them the skills of self talk and parallel talk. In self talk the parent describes their present moment actions in short sentences. In parallel talk the parent describes the child’s actions in short sentences. These skills have been often regarded by language therapists as the two most important skills for stimulation of language development. They have a focus on the present moment. Consequently it is not possible to project into the future about what might happen or to dwell in regret for what happened in the past. The child’s notions of time are still too limited, and this necessarily puts emphasis upon the precious present moment. Magic can happen in these moments when the parent fully surrenders to the wonder of the child’s changing perceptual focus.

Within this moment of magic, can we teach happiness? Can we teach skills that the child can draw on for the rest of his/her life, skills that will bring a return to the happiness response through the most difficult of times? It would seem that we must, and that we’ll profoundly change the universe through some simple changes in our approach to early play with our children.

This is not the etiquette “thank you” expression that relates to another’s approval. This is fully surrendered “thanks in wonder” for the precious gift of life received. The child would seem most ripe to receive this instruction while still in a natural sense of wonder for the world. We could break down various body movements and specifically give thanks for the gift to move…to make action. For example, we could take the child’s hand and ask them to move a finger, express wonder at the magic in this ability, and teach them to give thanks for this blessing. They could be taught to breath in deeply, and then breath out, followed by expression of gratitude for the gift of air. They could then experience the most important teaching; they would notice how happy they feel when giving thanks for these gifts. They would see that gratitude is the key to a lifetime of happiness. They would learn that whenever they’re not happy, all they have to do is look at their little finger and move it, giving thanks for this gift, and they’ll once again find happiness. Or they could return to the breath in gratitude for its moment-to-moment life restoration. They would no longer grow their suffering. Isn’t this what we all want?

Lasting happiness will not be found in a pill and it can’t be genetically programmed. We see that lasting happiness can’t be found through consumption and material accumulation. It’s not found through achievement and accumulation and our continual desperate attempts for control and power. Happiness comes from our expression of gratitude and we must teach this thank you response to our children for their lasting happiness.