"Gratitude — as conviction, practice, and discipline — is an essential nutrient, a kind of spiritual amino acid for human growth, joy, and creativity. Take away the daily experience and expression of gratitude, and life is quickly diminished. Like a weakened immune system, the spirit is left vulnerable to the diseases of cynicism, anger, low-grade depression, or at least an edgy sense of dissatisfaction. Gratitude-deprived, we suffer a relentless loss of vitality and delight."

So write Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and John O'Neil, President of the Center for Leadership Renewal. They are convinced that this spiritual practice must not be viewed as an exercise in etiquette or as one more virtue to cultivate but rather as a wholehearted response to the bounties of life. They set out to show how gratitude can abound in the happenings and healings of the four seasons: spring (Opening to Wonder), summer (The Flowering of Thanks), autumn (The Grateful Self), and winter (Living into Gratitude).

Whether writing about living in the realm of the senses, play, going for authentic life, feeding your mind, the host and the guest, or repairing the world; Jones and O'Neil offer a panoply of personal anecdotes and illustrative material from literature and popular culture. They add in plenty of thought-provoking quotations on gratitude from Thomas Merton, Lewis Smedes, Mark Nepo, Brother David Steindl-Rast, and others.

Very helpful are the authors' suggested gratitude practices, such as finding lost treasures, creating new alignments, expanding your capacity for spontaneous play, and turning an unpleasant obligation into something creative. Gratitude is a vital dimension of mature spirituality that celebrates the ties that bind us to others. As Jones and O'Neil put it: "Every occasion for gratefulness is in some way a recognition that we belong to the world and to our fellow beings, that we exist in the community. Practicing gratitude can restore us to our rightful place in the world."