The first of an eight-day exploration of what it means to live life as a gift. Inspired by Br. David Steindl-Rast's meditation, A Grateful Day.
Welcome to the first day of our practice. Let’s begin…
Please close your eyes while you take three slow, deep breaths. Then open your eyes and consider the invitation to: “Live as if Nothing is Promised You.”
In A Grateful Day, Br. David says:
“You think 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.”
Br. David reminds us that this day is a gift. It is given to us. We did not need to do anything to deserve or earn this day, and another one is not guaranteed any of us.
It can be sobering to acknowledge that not everyone who anticipated experiencing this day is actually alive today…but here we are! Still, nothing is promised to us. We are impermanent and everything changes. Recognition of our fragility, abundance, and vulnerability (including that of this wondrous planet) can be both painful and also liberating. It frees us to not take things for granted and to come more alive; to honor and enjoy all that which will change, and to treasure that which is available to us now, such as our bodies, our relationships, fresh air, a meal, and/or a beautiful sunset.
Today, in the spirit and truth of the fact that nothing is promised to us, we invite you to “Treasure this day and treasure yourself.”
If you would like to explore this topic further, you might appreciate:
Enjoy the full eight-day A Grateful Day | A Grateful Year practice.
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We had our first significant snowfall here in the midwest US in the past 46 days the night before, so I headed out to Fullersburg Woods for some “forest therapy”; making sure to us “all my senses” as I walked slowly and mindfully for several miles along Salt Creek and captured some stunning images of the pristine beauty of nature in the winter. I didn’t really interact with anyone other than to say hello to the various walkers, runners, and X-country skiers out there; I felt peaceful and calm.
This was a challenge. Some family issues came up last night that carried over into the early part of today. I took many pauses throughout the day to reflect on appreciation and living as if nothing is promised. I did notice more ease at dropping judgments throughout the day. Right now I’m noticing that perhaps my role in the world has nothing to do with the politics or political opinions. Perhaps my role is more about bringing the light of appreciation, peace, and love to the moment?
To live as if nothing is promised me. What a good intention! For most of the past year my husband has suffered from severe, untreated major depression which means that I have suffered from the “depression fallout” typically experienced by spouses. This has gone on for the majority of our 40 years of marriage and I am just beginning to really understand the dynamics and solidify my boundaries. I have spent too much time in “survival mode”, recovering from the past and worrying about the future. This intention is what I need and will practice.
I have had to deal with dis-ease in my daily life for 5 years now. Being told you have only 1-3 years left to live, wakes you up to the reality of life. I had been living in a deeply unconscious way. It has been my greatest teacher, this dis-ease, And I am grateful to it. Dispite the challenges it brings to my life, I have been able to tap into living in the moment and mindfulness. I learned that nothing was guaranteed by having to go through this experience. On my best days, living as nothing is promised is natural to me…and other days I will fall back into the fear that comes with living. It usually happens when I lose sight of this simple wisdom….to live as if nothing is promised. Thank you for this reminder of the preciousness of each moment and to not take it for granted. I needed this reminder.
As soon as I let the thought “nothing is promised me” sink in, and deepen into my approach to what is in my life, I feel a new sense of freedom, something like billowy air rising up under my arms–less work, and more options. I hope this will translate into what looks like more risk-taking and more courage through my old eyes, and what looks like wonder through new eyes. May I see and feel the newness of many moments given me, this day!
Write a kindness diary each night- 3 simple things you did that showed appreciation or kindness towards a friend, partner or stranger. Today my friend helped me clear out my room, I gave her many gifts in gratitude.
I thanked bus attendant by name
I walked from the car drop off to bus with my partner to share walk with him.
I just found gratefulness.org after listening to Br. David on a podcast and have just begun this 8-day practice. I went out for a run today with this intention in mind: nothing is promised you. I thought about three people in my life who were taken from this world unexpectedly – my Poppy, who died suddenly while waiting to play golf, something he loved, with my dad and my husband, two people he loved; my friend’s brother Victor, who died while out on a run, something he loved doing; and my old friend Bryan, who passed away tending his garden, something that nourished his spirit. Each of them anticipated continuing to do what they loved and were nourished by, with the people they loved surrounding them, but it was otherwise. Thinking of all of them today reminded me of how much I loved them, but also of how much they lived, truly lived, doing things they loved, right up to an end that they didn’t know was coming. I saw things on this run this morning that I usually take for granted – the yellow forsythia blooming, the daffodils coming up, the clouds in the blue sky – and I appreciated them even more knowing that in the next moment, on the next run, they will never be the same, and I was grateful for the moment I was experiencing.
I have never been very friendly with uncertainty. Uncertainty would fill me with fear and then I would try to control everything to make it go away. But uncertainty is a big part of life, and I realized a few months ago that I need to establish a new relationship with it, one that is more accepting and restful. But this meditation added a new dimension. If nothing is promised (uncertainty), then everything is gift. Whereas I was working at an attitude of neutrality with it, now I can work at seeing it as full of possibilities and, whatever is hidden in it and comes my way, as gift. I may not like what comes my way, but hidden even in difficulties, there are gifts, even if those are just learning experiences. I admit I’m very green at seeing things this way, but I think it’s worth pursuing as a way of becoming more open to life as it comes.
In a way, yes – it is scary to be reminded that this moment, this day, these opportunities will never be here again. I’m reminded of the poem – truly one of my favorites – by Robert Frost… “The Road Not Taken”.
“Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.”
For the author knows that – even if the opportunity does come for him to take the other path the next time – it will not be the same choice, because the two paths will NEVER really be the same again.
That said, it is this fact that makes life so important.. and makes it so important to live life fully TODAY… Because if we were immortal like some of the TV and movie characters we see, then honestly – we would have no incentive to do anything, because it’s the knowing that it’s so brief that makes life have VALUE.
Thanks for the reminder. <3
Nothing is promised to us, is truly strong.
Just to know it, sometimes I feel anxiety and I would like to do everything in a different way. But I can’t leave, I need to learn to be patient.
The thoughts that nothing is promised, and things change are very freeing. Keeping them in mind is helping me to be flexible and present to the moment, grateful for the moment.
Life may have its ups and downs with dreams on either side so take each day and live it well and just enjoy the ride. This is a quote I’ve been saying for 20 years. It seems apropos was today’s reflection.
I read the poem Otherwise for the first time yesterday. It resonated in my thoughts all day. I am glad it is posted here. To be so grateful for what I have and can experience, and that it is not “Otherwise”. Thank you for sharing.
is there a hashtag for posting pictures on Instagram? 🙂
Thanks for asking, Suzana. You might try #Gratefulness or if related to this practice #GratefulDay and #GratefulYear. Thanks!
What a liberation to assume that nothing is promised to me. No expectations, no senseless waiting, no disappointment, no accuse just a life now and here with childlike eyes…
Agreed. The fact is that neither life nor God nor universe has promised us anything. It is freeing and presents us with a sense of simple clarity.
Living a life as if this very day could very well be the last day of our lives affords us the opportunity to see life with a beginner’s mind with child-like wonder and magic.
What a beautiful thought Helga. Thank you.
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