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How Can I See the Light When It's So Dark?

How Can I See the Light When It's So Dark? Journey to a Thankful Heart
by Linda Douty
New York, NY: Morehouse Publishing, 2007
176 pages
Reviewed by Bobbie Bonk

This is a book about the value of gratitude in your life and what it takes to actually get there. The four sections form the structure of the process: one must believe the journey to a thankful heart is a trip worth taking; one must identify and remove the barriers that litter the way; one can then build bridges to gratitude through creative disciplines; then one can naturally become gratitude by integrating thanksgiving into everyday life.

The introduction begins with a well known quote from Meister Eckert, "If the only prayer you ever say in life is ‘thank you,’ this is enough" (p. xi). Linda Douty then leads the reader toward an understanding of gratitude as a transformative process, explaining that we are created as grateful beings. She points out that children naturally seem to echo words of appreciation, indicating that inborn wiring. Nurturing and cultivating thanksgiving is a lifelong process because we are often stuck in systems and behaviours’ that warp our thinking, values and beliefs, creating barriers to being thankful. Ultimately, gratitude is not guilt or grandiosity, but grace. Gratitude is grounding and has the possibility to grow exponentially.

How Can I See the Light When It’s So Dark? describes a variety of sabotaging thinking styles that create barriers to gratitude, includingdiscounted thinking, comparative thinking, guilty thinking, ego-centered thinking, and depressive thinking. Chapter three tells us how to get there, introducing tools that serve as bridges of the body, mind, and spirit which lead from knowledge about gratitude to actually experiencing it. Douty gives detailed descriptions of disciplines designed to integrate thanksgiving into our day to day lives. She explains how writing practices, walking meditations, and even paying bills can invite a spirit of thankfulness. She lists breath prayer phrases and explains unusual integrating prayers such as the Eraser Prayer and the Preparation Prayer. In the midst of misfortune, there is the possibility of discovering meaning when we approach life's traumas with an attitude of being thankful in those situations, but not for them.

Gratitude is more than doing things: "A life of becoming gratitude is lived day by day, moment by moment, and breath by breath" (p. 103). Throughout the book, Douty sprinkles heart warming stories and inspiring poetry. Chapters end with questions for journaling and reflection. The appendix offers ways to use the book with groups participating in retreats, workshops, seminars, or classroom study.

How Can I See the Light When It’s So Dark? will benefit spiritual directors and directees who want to increase thanksgiving in the midst of life’s paradoxes. Douty spells out the details of what a life of integrated gratitude actually looks like. The latest medical discoveries, as well as the wisdom teachings through the ages, all tell us that gratitude is the key to health, happiness, and purpose. It is a journey worth taking.

Bobbie Bonk works at a Roman Catholic church in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. She facilitates retreats, offers spiritual direction, and volunteers with inmates at the detention center. By participating in workshops for adult survivors of childhood abuse led by Mary’s Hope, she enhanced her spiritual direction training from The Center for Spirituality at Work in Denver, Colorado.

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