Nature, Love, and Gratitude

I am currently on a week long spiritual retreat in the mountains of western North Carolina.  Rather than take time away from the retreat and write a new column for this week, I am choosing to repeat a column from a few years ago about beauty, love, and gratitude.  The timing is good for the this column as Thanksgiving is less than a week away. The timing is also good, perhaps, given how much pain and darkness we are witnessing in the world right now.  The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, facing the kind of horrible violence we are seeing today, taught us that, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”   May the video referred to in this column be a much needed source of light and love for us all.  

"Let Gratefulness Overflow Into Blessing"


The title for this week's column comes from one of the most beautiful videos I have ever seen. The video is a TED talk and the focus of the video is nature, love, and gratitude. Watching and reflecting on this video seems like a powerful way to prepare for the celebration of Thanksgiving. In fact, you might even want to share the video when you gather with family and friends next week.


The video brings the stunning time-lapse photography of Louie Schwartzberg together with words spoken by a Benedictine monk named Brother David Steindl-Rast. Brother David invites us to pay attention, really pay attention to the simple gifts and blessings of life that can be so easily taken for granted. He points out that paying attention to the wonder of nature and the wonder of the people we encounter in our life is the basis for authentic love and gratitude. I could not agree more.


You can view the video at


You will not regret investing the five minutes it takes to watch this video. If you want to read along as Brother David speaks, the text for his words is printed below.


     We at Living Compass wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. And in the words of Brother David, "May your gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you". 


     You think that this is just another day in your life... It's not just another day. It's the one day that is given to you - today... It's given to you. It's a gift. It's the only gift that you have right now... ...and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. 


     If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is... If you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life and the very last day then you will have spent this day very well. 


     Begin by opening your eyes, and be surprised that you have eyes you can open. That incredible array of colors that is constantly offered to us for our pure enjoyment. Look at the sky. We so rarely look at the sky. We so rarely note how different it is from moment to moment, with clouds coming and going. We just think of the weather, and even with the weather we don't think of all the many nuances of weather... We just think of "good weather" and "bad weather." 


     This day, right now, with its unique weather, maybe a kind that will never exactly in that form come again.. The formation of clouds in the sky will never be the same as it is right now... 


     Open your eyes. Look at that. 


     Look at the faces of people whom you meet. Each one has an incredible story behind their face, a story that you could never fully fathom. Not only their own story, but the story of their ancestors. We all go back so far... 


     And in this present moment on this day, all the people you meet, all that life from generations and from so many places all over the world flows together and meets you here like a life giving water if you only open your heart and drink. 


     Open your heart to the incredible gifts that civilization gives to us. You flip a switch and there is electric light. You turn a faucet and there is warm water, and cold water, and drinkable water... a gift that millions and millions in the world will never experience. 


     So these are just a few of an enormous number of gifts to which you can open your heart. 


     And so I am wishing you will open your heart to all these blessings and let them flow through you. That everyone you will meet on this day will be blessed by you, just by your eyes, by your smile, by your touch, just by your presence. 


     Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you. Then it will REALLY be a good day.


Words by Brother David Steindl-Rast