A Small Change – A Big Difference

The way a crow
shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Dust of Snow, by Robert Frost.

Little changes can make a big difference

A change of heart like Frost’s is caused by gratefulness. Brother David Steindl-Rast calls it “a redeeming change of heart” – we suddenly notice something unexpected and wonderful that pulls us into the present moment. We wake up.

We have the chance to live our lives gratefully, investing each moment with the energy of being awake and alive. Are we always grateful for every thing that happens to us? No. We can experience so many things that challenge us: death, illness, violence, abandonment, war. However, we have the choice to be grateful for each moment, as each moment presents us with a gift of opportunity and possibility. Even the tough ones.

A wise person said “The path to truth is the path of truth.” We deceive ourselves if we keep our eyes only on a destination. The point is the journey itself – the awakening we experience on every step of our life’s journey. One speaking the language of more traditional scripture might say that we do not arrive at the kingdom of heaven, but we live the kingdom of heaven in every moment, or not. It’s our choice. A practice of living gratefully helps keep us in that transcendent energy.

Questions to consider:

Marcus Cicero taught “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” What does this mean to you? Do you agree?

Brother David teaches the practice of “stop, look, go” that Rev. Melanie discussed in her talk. Here’s the cliff notes version of the process:

  • Stop: Wake up! Be ready for the surprises that are before you. He writes that at the end of every day, Brother David asks himself “did I stop and allow myself to be surprised?”
  • Look: Be aware of what’s in front of you. Nature, other people, wonderful events, new opportunities. Don’t assume that what is in front of you is old news – look at it with fresh eyes and see the wonder in it.
  • Go: Respond alertly. There’s no point in stopping and looking unless we also next act on the gift. Usually, our action may simply be to appreciate what is before us. However, in more challenging circumstances we may need to dig deeper, with more awareness and focus, in order to bring ourselves fully to this event.

What is your response to this practice?

  • What gratitude practices have you found to be useful in your life?
  • What has the practice of gratefulness added to your life? Does it make a difference to you and those you touch?
  • Aside from gratefulness, what practices make a similar difference in your life?

Watch Rev. Melanie’s talk now


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