We all want to be happy. This is something we all share in common. Gratefulness brings happiness. It is possible to find opportunities to be grateful in every moment - to appreciate and respect, not to be forever wanting or living in fear, and to act from a sense of abundance not scarcity.
This is the advice of Brother David Stendl-Rast from his TEDx talk given in Scotland in 2014. I am currently studying Fritjof Capra's inaugural online course about the Systems View of Life. This week's lecture was about Science and Spirituality. At the end of the lecture, Fritjof suggested we watch Brother David's TEDx talk. I encourage you to find a quiet 15 minutes to stop and listen to these words of wisdom - a voice for non-violence, peace, happiness, respect and happiness. (TEDx video link at end of post) Brother David suggests we just need to slow down, to connect to and be aware of what is happening around us, be open to see the opportunities present in each and every moment, and be willing to take those opportunities. This he believes will guide us to a happy life.
Brother David is a Benedictine monk and psychologist who, for many years, has inspired Fritjof Capra. In 1991, they co-authored a book, Belonging to the Universe: Explorations on the Frontiers of Science and Spirituality - in dialogue they "explore the parallels between new paradigm thinking in science and religion that together offer a remarkably compatible view of the universe". I remember reading this book 24 years agoand having my worldview about religion and spirituality shifted significantly. Until then I had always kept science and spirituality in completely separate places in mind. At the time I was on a 5 week residential course at Schumacher College with Fritjof Capra exploring the systems view of life and how the emerging ecological paradigm is central to sustainable communities. It all made such complete sense to me. This connectedness was how I felt. It reflected how I experienced the world but had, until then, no way of expressing. It was as if I had known this all my life - common sense. Brother David writes a lot about common sense - for mind, body and soul. In this particular TEDx talk, Brother David suggests that the 'instructions' for a happy life are similar to those we are taught as children when learning to cross the road - it's common sense too - that we need to Stop, Look, Go. He encourages us to find easy and daily ways to stop and be present in the moment, to look and see what is happening around us and to see opportunities to engage and be happy.
Making space to stop doesn't have to take a long time. Momentary reflections - watching the ripples of sunlight filter through the trees, taking off your shoes and feeling the cool moist soil beneath your feet, appreciating the plant and soil and microrganisms while harvesting your greens, taking in a deep breath in the morning and appreciating the trees which breathe out this clean air ... whatever it is that helps you to feel connected.
Living a simple life, connected with nature and community gives us many opportunities to slow down enough to stop, to look, to listen, to be present in the moment - to connect, to feel at one with the world, to feel a sense of belonging - belonging to the community of life, belonging to the universe and then continuing on in our lives with the renewed respect and gratefulness for life, for the opportunities that exist in every moment to live a happy and meaningful life. My exposure to the the thinking and wisdom of people like Fritjof Capra and Brother David, and other Schumacher Scholars in my early 20s led me to open my heart and mind to the possibilities of what my life could look like lived with purpose and meaning, and encouraged me to simplify my life so that I could find the moments to stop, look and go, be grateful and be happy. Stop, look and go well!