From The Gentle Art of Blessing
In the following months, I shared this short text with friends in different countries. As months turned into years, I started receiving letters and phone calls from all around the world, mostly from people I had never met.
A mother in a small town in Burkina Faso, West Africa, wrote, “As a result of studying your text, we bless those who harm us and pray for them.” Mahmooudou, a man who works at the grassroots with farmers in the Mopti region of Mali, a western neighbor of Burkina Faso, shared his experience of blessing in a moving letter:
I have started to turn blessing into an everyday experience, in all situations. It has become part of my very marrow. And each day, it fills me more and more. It has started to sharpen my sense of sharing, of justice, of equity and solidarity. I am becoming more patient, tolerant, forbearing, understanding – and sensitive to everything that affects my neighbor. To begin with, I did not understand, because it was at the same time very difficult and very easy to forgive someone who had deliberately harmed me. Then I understood that I only needed to master my heart. This means that all depends on the state of mind we have toward things. May God, who is Supreme Wisdom, grant us a loving state of mind. I thank you sincerely. May God reward you. When I bless someone who is suffering physically, morally, or materially, I am filled with a comforting breath which does me good and makes me strong and serene. I have distributed your text all around me and even far off.
What a rich harvest Mahmoudou received because he gave his heart and soul to the practice of blessing! Later he wrote me, “I discussed your text with the elders of the village, and these wise men all approved it, saying that he who wants to protect himself from his enemy’s arrow must have the courage to face him and do him good, with a smile on his face and in the heart. In this way, the arrow will be deflected and will fall on the arid soil.
A couple in California who run self-development workshops wrote to say they were using the text with hundreds of people. A spiritual healer on the Isle of Wight, Great Britain, wrote, “The Gentle Art of Blessing is snowballing and can only unite people of all walks of life in a link of peace. It touches receptive hearts, bringing forth the goodness that is inherent in each one.” She mentioned that she had given it to shopkeepers and hairdressers and “the Mother Superior of a Roman Catholic convent who was so inspired by it she made copies for all the nuns in her convent.”
A friend sent the text to an acquaintance of his in Poland. She replied,
The Gentle Art of Blessing arrived just at the right moment, and I have had the opportunity to apply it. Yes, truly “Life is teaching you a lesson,” (as the text says). I had some “visitors” at my summer house. They looted all the rooms, leaving an incredible mess. I blessed them. They helped themselves to my food. I blessed them. They also stole my camera, my Swiss axe, my alarm clock. I blessed them. They broke a window and two doors. I blessed them. They do have a home. I do. So I blessed them. They are now in prison, having raided in like manner fifteen houses. “When you pass a prison, mentally bless its inmates.” I blessed them again. This weekend, I will be very busy – blessing.
A woman in Lewiston, Maine, wrote, “This is an essay that, when deeply contemplated, can turn us completely away from selfish cares and interests. You will not be surprised, therefore, when I say it made me say to myself, I cannot hope to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven until I am ready to take everyone else in with me.”
A participant in the “Recreating Your Life” workshops I give each summer, high up in the Swiss Alps, wrote, “I use blessings with interest, surprise, and pleasure. I realized that I often had a rather mocking way of considering people and that I could transform that attitude into blessings. I like that!”
Roger, to whom this book is co-dedicated and who has been twenty-two years on death row in Texas for a crime he never committed, described the terrible prison conditions, the harassment by the wardens, the freezing cold cells. He then wrote,
I was ready to explode. I prayed, but for some reason, I could not find comfort in my prayers. Finally, at night, before I went to bed, I read the beginning parts of your book and I can tell you now that it changed my thought process. After reading, I just started asking God to bless all of these people, to bless them and their families, to bless them in their financial life, their spiritual life, every aspect of their lives. And, very gently, very slowly, the weight began to lift from my shoulders, not all at once, but gradually. And now, every morning, when I wake up, the first thing I do is bless them, and again in the middle of the day, and before I go to sleep at night.
Jean-Hilaire, an inmate from Cameroon, whom I visited weekly as a volunteer at the Geneva penitentiary, wrote, “Since reading The Gentle Art of Blessing, I feel deep inside me a power and an extraordinary ability to say: We can change men, we can repaint the world with enthusiasm and hope.”
This overwhelming response told me that there was something to this practice. It had been missing from people’s lives. Perhaps people had gotten away from the practice, or never learned it to begin with. Many of us have been told of the benefits of gratitude, but the art of blessing is something more: extending sincere, benevolent wishes from the bottom of our heart to another person. For whatever reason, one thing was certain: bringing it into people’s lives was having a definite impact.