We live in a world in which systemic cruelty, discrimination, violence, and poverty are pervasive. Sometime we ourselves suffer at the hands of these injustices, and other times it is the suffering of others that we face. There are days when being “awake” to the truth of the conditions of the world is more than our hearts feel able to bear. At times such as these, we can experience equal parts outrage, overwhelm, heartbreak, and powerlessness. Our wellspring of empathy can seem emptied, and we may feel exhausted by our concerns for the world, and the global family to which we belong. What is there to “do?”
Grateful Living can be most challenging when we are faced with incomprehensible pain and cruelty, but these are the moments when taking stock of the opportunities at hand can offer us greater agency. As Nelson Mandela said when he was released from 27 years in jail, “As I walked out the door…toward my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” Liberation and social change require action. Grateful living asks us to “stop” to experience our heart’s truth, to “look” in order to notice what resources we have at hand with which we can make a difference, and to “go” – taking action that expresses our deepest commitments to a world with peace and justice for all.
(2011) Watch as the camera tracks an act of kindness as its passed from one individual to the next and manages to boomerang back to the person who set it into motion. Gratefulness fuels the process.
Inequality and the struggle for social justice have been depicted in films since the silent era. Here are the films watched at a 2015 film seminar at Esalen.
(July 2015) At this year’s American Library Association’s Andrew Carnegie Medals for Exellence in Fiction and Nonfiction award ceremony Bryan Stevenson took home the Carnegie Medal in nonfiction for Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. Here is Stevenson’s powerful speech delivered on the same day that President Obama gave a moving eulogy for pastor Clementa Pinckney, who was among the nine murdered a week earlier in a heinous act of racial violence in Charleston.
(July 2015) In Columbia SC, James Taylor was joined onstage by Charleston choir Lowcountry Voices. Together, they sang “Shed a Little Light” in memory of the victims of the Charleston shooting and their families. The entire audience stood in support.
(2015) Muslims and Jews prayed together side-by-side in public spaces across Los Angeles, in an effort to show that peace is possible. “We were just so surprised that we could do this together and it’s very similar,” said participant Maryam Saleemi. “It was kind of like an ‘Aha Moment’ that we’re praying to the same God, why aren’t we doing this all the time together?”
(On Being, 2015) “Race is a little bit like gravity,” john powell says: experienced by all, understood by the few. He is an esteemed legal scholar and thinker who counsels all kinds of people and projects on the front lines of our present racial anguish and longings. Race is relational, he reminds us. It’s as much about whiteness as about color. And it largely plays out, as we’re learning through new science, in our unconscious minds.
(2012) When war between Israel and Iran seemed imminent, Israeli graphic designer Ronny Edry shared a poster on Facebook of himself and his daughter with a bold message: “Iranians … we [heart] you.” Other Israelis quickly created their own posters with the same message — and Iranians responded in kind. The simple act of communication inspired surprising Facebook communities like “Israel loves Iran,” “Iran loves Israel” and even “Palestine loves Israel.”
An e-course by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. “Practicing Spirituality with Peacemakers” offers an alternative way of living that is built on the strong spiritual foundations of nonviolence, living together harmoniously, forgiving and being reconciled with others, and seeking common ground.
A show about the subjects we would struggle with less if we could talk about them more.
(2010) In this TED Talk, young Malawian William Kamkwamba describes how he built a windmill to power his family’s home aged 14, during a time of poverty and famine. The windmill produced electricity and was built from spare parts and scrap.
(2012) Music video about Gandhiji’s Life with Gandhi Rap Gandhi Giri sung by MC Yogi
(2015) A bunch of skeletons kiss, hug, and dance in front of a crowd … to make an excellent point about love. Also, it’s not scary, we promise.
(2013) How can we move beyond narrow religious perspectives and polarized issues to a more embracing view of human responsibilities and values?
How can we live our most deeply-felt values through our work life? What would a “grateful” economy look like? The books in this list offer ways to reimagine and recreate businesses which support our vision of a more just, sustainable and enlightened world.
(2010) Brother David explains the dangers of fear, which leads to aggression and violence.
How could anyone read the news headlines of this past week, month, or year, and feel grateful? I fall prey to doubt. Reconciling this conundrum is a focus of mine almost every day lately.
“I don’t feel anger against the perpetrators, only confusion and pity and sadness. I also don’t take credit for not feeling anger. It’s simply the natural course my mind and heart have taken… I’m grateful for this grace.”
Br. David writes about how one small illumination of gratitude creates ripples of positive change, so that “the gift hidden in our unprecedented world crisis is an equally unprecedented opportunity.”
More than 20 years old, this interview about mysticism and social action is surprising in its contemporary relevance.
Five simple steps towards gratitude offer us strength even when we’re endangered by violence.
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